Sunday 4 December 2016

Time running out as teachers hold on for better deal

Published 25/10/2016 | 02:30

The Department of Education is meeting school management bodies today to discuss contingency plans, but accepts that widespread schools closures are inevitable (Stock photo)
The Department of Education is meeting school management bodies today to discuss contingency plans, but accepts that widespread schools closures are inevitable (Stock photo)

Up to 250,000 teenagers will be locked out of school on Thursday as secondary teachers press ahead with plans for a one-day strike.

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Dual-union schools are asking teachers to sign a declaration about their availability for work on Thursday before making a final decision about whether to open or close.

About 500 schools are in the process of telling parents that they cannot open because of the stoppage by members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI).

It means that about two in three second-level schools will be forced to close as the ASTI holds out for a better deal on post-austerity pay restoration than that accepted by other unions.

According to the ASTI, a "significant gap" remained between the sides after about four hours of talks yesterday with Department of Education officials.

The sides meet again tomorrow, but no one is holding out any hope that Thursday's stoppage can be averted.

The 380 schools in the voluntary secondary sector - generally those under the control of the religious, where the ASTI is the union representing teachers - are definitely closing.

Many dual teacher union schools will also have to shut, as they have significant numbers of ASTI members on their staff.

Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS) general secretary Eileen Salmon said the vast majority of the 97 community and comprehensive schools would be closing. Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) general secretary Michael Moriarty estimates that about 30 of about 60 community colleges in that sector will close.

There are another 210 schools in the ETB sector that will be unaffected because the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) alone represents teaching staff.

With a general acceptance that Thursday's stoppage will go ahead, what is causing more concern is the prospect of about 500 schools not reopening after the Halloween break if the ASTI row is not resolved.

On the day schools are due to re-open - November 7 - ASTI members have threatened to withdraw from supervision and substitution work, forcing most schools to close because of lack of cover.

The Department of Education is meeting school management bodies today to discuss contingency plans, but accepts that widespread schools closures are inevitable.

The contingency plan - involving the recruitment of external supervisors - seemed to be doomed from the beginning.

This is because the ASTI would not allow its principal members to help with the process and did not give sufficient time for schools to recruit, train and vet external supervisors.

Even if schools were in a position to recruit, it would take until the end of November to complete the process.

Irish Independent

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