TEACHERS will soon be working an extra hour a week as part of a major shake-up of the education system.
The ground-breaking move means that parents will no longer face school closures for events such as staff meetings. These will now be scheduled outside class time.
The extra hours, which may be grouped into blocks of up to two days, will be used for non-teaching work such as parent-teacher meetings, school planning and teacher training.
Other major changes are also on the way for schools under the Croke Park pay and productivity deal in the public service, involving greater flexibility on the part of teachers.
But there is still huge opposition to implementing the reforms among third-level lecturers in institutes of technology .
The Labour Relations Commission was called in to try to broker the deal, but lecturers are strenuously opposed to the flexibility being sought in their working arrangements.
For the first time, under this deal, teachers in secondary and community and comprehensive schools can now be transferred, if surplus to requirements.
Vocational schools already have a redeployment scheme.
More than 300 teachers who currently have no official position in their schools -- some of them for many years -- will be transferred to within a 50km radius next September. The Department of Education had previously warned that the alternative to redeployment was compulsory redundancies.
The teachers' agreement also provides for other flexibility measures, such as the reassignment of teachers in middle-management roles at the discretion of the school.
The Croke Park deal was brokered almost a year ago, but it took until this week for the Department of Education and teacher unions to agree the detail.
More than 30,000 primary teachers, members of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, are ready to implement the changes.
The second-level Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) have to ballot their members, but in the current economic climate, a Yes vote is expected.
The leadership of both unions met yesterday to consider the final package and the ballots are expected to be completed in the next three to four weeks.
However, the TUI has yet to decide if its second-level and third-level members should be balloted together or separately.
Separately, each of the universities is coming up with their own proposals for staff.
Meanwhile, managers in all sectors of the public service have now submitted plans of action to roll out reforms.