Warning of exam repeats surge as teachers strike
Parents fear hundreds of extra students will be forced to repeat their Leaving Cert exams next year as a consequence of the impending strike by secondary school teachers.
The concerns come as it was revealed that the number of repeats rose by more than 26pc in the year after the last ASTI dispute.
Worried parents are now concerned that next Thursday's strike, the first of seven planned strike days, will mean an extra year in school for some students.
A final plea has been issued to warring teachers by parents, asking them to pull out of strike action as fears grow that schools will not reopen after the mid-term break owing to concerns about student safety.
Teachers are also planning to withdraw from supervision, with schools running out of time to fill the void by bringing in parents.
However, the deepest concerns lie among the parents of students preparing to sit exams.
Rebecca Hemeryck, of the National Parents Council Post Primary, asked the ASTI to reconsider its strike action.
"Our argument is that going out on strike is affecting our children, especially in relation to the Leaving Cert.
"What is most annoying is that the Government and the ASTI do not seem to be bothered about students missing seven days before Christmas," she said.
The Sunday Independent has learnt that the number of students who went on to repeat the Leaving Cert increased by 26.5pc in the year after the last teachers' strike.
Teachers picketed during the 2000/2001 school year in a dispute over pay and conditions and walked out on eight separate days.
Before that dispute, the number of students repeating the exam had dropped by 2,500 over three consecutive years.
However, in the 2001/2002 school year - just after teachers took eight strike days - the number of students repeating their exams rose by more than 670, despite the total number of Leaving Cert students declining by 1,235 compared with the previous year.
An ASTI spokesperson denied there was a link between that 2001/2002 strike and an increase in student repeats.
"This is likely an issue relating to third level places and entry points. We have no evidence of a drop in performance in the Leaving Cert. We believe all students will be adequately prepared for the State exams."
Union chiefs will meet Department of Education and Skills officials tomorrow.
A department spokeswoman said it had offered to suspend penalties imposed on ASTI members, after they rejected the Lansdowne Road Agreement, if they consented to carry out unpaid work that formed part of the Croke Park Agreement in 2010.
"This offer has been repeated to ASTI on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, ASTI have refused this offer thus far, but it remains open to them," she added.
ASTI members will begin their industrial action over pay rates for newly qualified teachers on Thursday, the first of seven planned strike days between now and December.
They have failed to rule out taking further action in the New Year and the ASTI spokeswoman added that the walk-out on Thursday was likely to go ahead.
"We believe our issues are resolvable. We will continue to engage but industrial action looks likely."
Ms Hemeryck said she agreed teachers should be paid equally but added that taking strike action was a step too far.
"The point is, how many more strikes are we going to get in the New Year? We are worried about all students, but particularly the Leaving and Junior Cert students. They are under enough stress and pressure at a normal time without this added pressure."
The Sunday Independent has also learnt that more than 350 school teachers are earning in excess of €90,000.
Figures show 115 teachers earn between €100,000 and €125,000 per year. Another 154 teachers are paid between €95,000 and €100,000, while a further 90 earn more than €90,000.
ASTI said the majority of these were "likely to be principals employed in very large schools managing 100-plus staff and catering for up 1,500 students".