Sunday 19 November 2017

Many parents in dark over whether their child's school will be closed during strike

ETBI general secretary Michael Moriarty Picture: Maura Hickey
ETBI general secretary Michael Moriarty Picture: Maura Hickey
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Many parents are still in the dark about whether their children's school will be closed by a one-day teachers' strike next Thursday.

The first in a series of one-day stoppages by members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) is now virtually certain to go ahead, in their campaign for pay equality for new-entrant teachers.

But many schools still don't know exactly how they are going to be affected - and it is likely to be Tuesday before parents are advised whether they will open or close.

There is ongoing uncertainty about the ability of individual community and comprehensive schools and community colleges to open.

The 386 schools in the voluntary secondary sector - generally those under the control of the religious orders - will definitely close because all, or most, of their teachers are in the ASTI. These schools amount to more than half the 730 second-level schools in the country - and their boards of management are preparing to notify parents of impending closures next Thursday.

There are about 210 schools under the control of education and training boards (ETBs) that are not expected to be affected, because all, or most, of their teachers are members of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), which is not taking strike action.

However, the difficulties arise for many dual-union community and comprehensive schools and community colleges where there are significant numbers of ASTI members on the staff.

About 30 of the 62 community colleges, which are also under the auspices of the ETB, and many of the 97 community and comprehensive schools, are expected to close.

Both sectors were awaiting clarity from the TUI about its position, and the union stated last night that no member of the TUI would undertake any work normally done by members of the ASTI. But the TUI is also advising members that if they do not pass the picket they will forego pay and will not have protection under industrial relations legislation.

Boards of management of individual community and comprehensive schools are expected to meet on Monday night when final decisions will be taken. Similarly, ETB schools will decide on their positions after a meeting between their management body, ETBI and the TUI, on Monday.

ETBI general secretary Michael Moriarty said it was their objective to keep schools open, but decisions would have to be taken by schools at a local level, depending on their circumstances.

The strikes are one of two forms of industrial action threatened by the ASTI over pay. The union has also announced that its members will withdraw from supervision and substitution duties from Monday, November 7, which could mean more than 500 schools remaining closed after the mid-term break.

A meeting between ASTI leaders and Department of Education officials on Monday is not expected to resolve the row.

Irish Independent

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