'We're doing what's right for our students - that's why we're here'
TEACHERS braved icy temperatures as they warned the Government they will not back down on their determination to defend Irish exam standards.
But dozens of teachers warned that it was now high time for the Government and trade unions to finally resolve the Junior Cert impasse.
ASTI and TUI members mounted pickets on schools throughout Ireland, with the turnout even stronger than for the December 2 protest.
Scoil Mhuire in Cork city had a strong picket mounted throughout the day.
"It is very disappointing that we are out here protesting once again," teacher Aileen Twomey said.
"I certainly don't want my children in a system where there is any question mark whatsoever over the value of their exam marks."
Donal O'Mahony of Christian Brothers College (CBC) in Cork said teachers are still determined to uphold the Junior Cert exam system.
"We have seen corruption over recent years in so many levels of Irish society but the one thing there has never been a shadow of corruption over has been Irish secondary school exam results," he said.
Sean Armstrong (29) of St Mary's College in Galway city, said: "If you are a young teacher trying to get permanency in a school, you will be under pressure to be seen to get good grades. The easiest thing to do would be to mark your students up a few grades." Proposals for teachers to mark Junior Cert exam papers are totally unsuited to rural Ireland, said Eileen Maguire, who was on the picket line of Errigal College in Letterkenny, Co Donegal. The college is one of 192 DEIS secondary schools with extra resources to tackle inequality.
"Forcing teachers to mark the exam papers of their pupils may work in a big city, where teachers are more anonymous, but for somewhere like Donegal it is impossible," she said.
"It is unfair on everyone: the student, the parent and the teachers. We live in a society where there are still strong community links and everyone knows everyone."
In Kerry, teachers warned they weren't concerned about losing another day's pay.
"It does impact obviously, losing a day's pay, but it's not about the money," said Mary Humphreys, a geography teacher and TUI member at Killarney Community College.
"We believe we're doing what's right for our students and that's why we're here."