Disruption on cards as 17,000 teachers take action
PARENTS face major disruption from next week as 17,000 teachers roll out plans to either cut classes or cancel meetings.
Parent-teacher appointments and other gatherings concerned with school planning will be hit by a ban on meetings outside school hours as part of the industrial action announced by the Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI).
Meetings with parents of thousands of sixth-year students preparing for the Leaving Certificate next June could be the first casualties.
The ban on meetings is one of a number of actions, starting from October 2, unveiled by the ASTI after members rejected the Haddington Road Agreement on pay and productivity.
While there is no suggestion of work stoppages at the moment, their programme of protest could cause considerable disruption to schools in the short to medium term.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn will discuss the matter with cabinet colleagues today.
ASTI's standing committee has also banned attendance at teacher-training courses, including those for the new-style Junior Certificate, and members are instructed to refuse to fill in for vacated middle-management posts.
Their action will affect about two-thirds of the 730 post-primary schools – the ones traditionally run by the religious and those in the community and comprehensive sector.
The ASTI stands alone in opposition to the Haddington Road pact.
The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT), the last public service union to announce a ballot result on the agreement, has voted 62-38 in favour.
The ASTI has taken a harder line than expected in its initial response.
Observers had thought that it would withdraw from the 33 extra hours a year conceded under the Croke Park Agreement, the precursor to Haddington Road.
But the ASTI is also pulling out of a previous deal, allowing for a number of parent-teacher and other meetings to be held half-in and half-out of school hours.
It means that if these meetings are to go ahead they must happen within school hours, which would involve cancelling classes and, perhaps, sending pupils home early as well as forcing parents to get off work to attend.
The alternative is to cancel the meetings.
Typically, meetings with parents of Leaving Certificate students get under way in early October, which puts them first in the firing line.
Ferdia Kelly of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB), representing about 380 post-primary school managements, said it was their hope that teaching and learning would not be disrupted.
ASTI General Secretary Pat King said while teachers were anxious not to disrupt their students' education, ASTI members had voted by a two-to-one majority in favour of industrial action.
The Irish Second-Level Students' Union (ISSU) called on the Government and ASTI representatives to re-enter negotiations to avoid the occurrence of industrial action.
ISSU president Mark Caffrey said: "One way or another, a resolution will be reached at some point.
"We know from talking to students that they will already be worried about how industrial action could ultimately affect their exam results."