The teachers' strike on Tuesday is creating particular headaches for boarding schools, which will still have to cater for several thousand pupils.
hile it may be possible to send home students who live close by, many boarding schools have pupils from abroad or living at such a distance that it would be either impossible or impractical to go home for the duration of the 24 hour stoppage. The Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI), whose members work in boarding schools, has made a concession and is allowing teachers to provide minimum cover to ensure that pupils are safe. However, ASTI members will not be involved in providing tuition for boarders who remain on the premises on the day.
The one-day stoppage is going ahead in opposition to proposals that teachers grade their own students for 40pc of marks in a reformed Junior Certificate.
The two second-level teacher unions argue that independent assessment is essential to ensure objectivity and warn that changing that would undermine education standards.
Writing in the Irish Independent today, Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) president Gerry Quinn states that teachers do not want to put at risk the public confidence in the exams that comes from the current arrangements. "If recent Irish history has taught us anything, it is that regulation is a necessity rather than an optional extra. The SEC ensures objectivity and that an A grade has the same value in Donegal, Dublin and Cork. This facilitates student planning and preparation for the Leaving Certificate and career paths," he said.
Mr Quinn picked up on the controversy that erupted this week over the idea that corruption is so endemic in Ireland that teachers could not be trusted to grade their own students.
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan rejected sentiments expressed to that effect in a newspaper column and described it as a "corrosive line of argument".
Mr Quinn writes today: "This is not an issue of teacher honesty, it is an issue of maintaining objectivity and consistency".
However Craig McHugh, the president of the Irish Second-Level Students' Union (ISSU), which supports the reforms, has also taken issue with the teacher unions' argument
Writing in an ISSU blog , the Leaving Certificate student at Dundalk Grammar School, Co Louth said: "Teachers marking my work? Marking my brothers work? Bad idea! What if he doesn't like me and gives me a bad grade! Well now, if that's the case then I think it's teachers that need reform instead of our education system; as teachers should assess their students with professional experience, skill and due manner and not give anyone priority, as that would be unprofessional and that would damage education's progression."
The teacher unions have threatened a further one-day strike in January.
The public row over Junior Cert reform has been going on for two years, since the previous minister announced the abolition of the State certificate at this stage in education, and the replacement of the traditional exams with teachers marking their own students. Union leaders decided to go ahead with strike action after rejecting a significant compromise put forward by Ms O'Sullivan, which involves retaining the State certificate and reducing teachers' role in assessment to 40pc of marks.