TALKS to explore ways of ending the teachers' pay dispute are expected but classes will be cancelled in the meantime, continuing the toll on students.
Yesterday, saw the first glimmer of hope that the disruptive dispute could be resolved, but it could take several weeks to find a basis for a settlement.
In the meantime, the disruption will continue and further classes are expected to be cancelled as teachers hold meetings within normal school hours.
The prospect of an end to the impasse between Government and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) emerged amid mounting concern that schools are closing to allow for parent-teacher meetings to take place.
Industrial action by the 17,000-member ASTI includes a ban on meetings outside school hours, forcing principals to hold them during class time.
The ASTI began action earlier this month after it rejected the Haddington Road Agreement on pay cuts and productivity, insisting that the education system was overloaded and had suffered too many cuts.
The union has been seeking talks but Education Minister Ruairi Quinn ruled out any discussions unless the union signed up for Haddington Road.
However, yesterday Mr Quinn raised the possibility of talks and said he would be open to exploration by his officials with the teacher unions, specifically the ASTI, to see what kind of things they would like to talk about.
He again insisted that while he can "talk to them about education matters, I can't talk to them about the terms and conditions of the Haddington Road Agreement".
It drew a speedy and positive response from ASTI general secretary Pat King who said he welcomed what Mr Quinn had to say. "We have to go through that window now and seek a resolution of the dispute," said Mr King.
He said the reasons behind teachers' vote to reject the Haddington Road Agreement were complex and included, but went beyond, what was in the agreement.
He said that the ASTI wanted to address some aspects of the agreement that, he claimed, would not cost the State anything.
Mr Quinn, who has departed the country for a week-long trade and education mission to Brazil, suggested that any meeting would not take place until after the mid-term break, which runs the week beginning Monday, October 28.