PARENTS' fury is mounting as a teachers' pay dispute threatens to eat into classroom time at secondary schools around the country.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has waded into the row, saying that many parents simply can't afford to take time out from their working day because of the teachers' industrial action.
Parents are being asked to take time off work to allow meetings with teachers take place during the school day.
Even parents who are not directly involved will have to make arrangements for their children who are being sent home early to facilitate the meetings.
Jim Moore, chief executive of the National Parents' Council Post Primary (NPCpp), said the situation was "not satisfactory" and that parents wanted a speedy resolution to the dispute before children suffered.
It is the first time that the row involving the 17,000 members of the Association of Secondary teachers Ireland (ASTI) – the only union to reject the Haddington Road deal – is threatening to directly affect pupils and parents.
Most parent-teacher meetings have been moved to the evenings in recent years to make it easier for all parents to attend.
Teachers agreed to this under previous partnership deals.
In recent days, school managers have been told that parent-teachers meetings, particularly for exam classes, can no longer be postponed over the ASTI's
refusal to co-operate with meetings outside the school day.
As reported in yesterday's Irish Independent, the managers have been advised to press ahead with arranging the meetings during class hours, even though it will cause severe disruption to both pupils and parents.
Some 120,000 teenagers are preparing for the Junior or Leaving Cert exams next summer.
Mr Quinn has ramped up pressure by pointing out that parents face huge difficulties in having to take time off work to attend meetings, which start as early as 1pm.
He said many parents could not "afford to take time out or take leave to go to a meeting that otherwise would have taken place outside school hours".
Jim Moore of the NPCpp said the "biggest problem is that some parents are not going to be able to get to these meetings".
The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) also expressed its concern. NAPD director Clive Byrne said parents and principals would be guided by the advice of the management bodies and they had to "recognise the reality that if the dispute is ongoing, then obviously, in terms of advising parents and students on academic matters, meetings will have to take place".
They were reacting to moves by the Joint Managerial Body to re-schedule parent-teacher meetings inside class hours in the face of the ASTI's ban on holding them outside the normal day.
By Katherine Donnelly Education Editor