Thursday 23 November 2017

Schools forced to halt parent-teacher nights in ASTI row

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

PARENT-teacher meetings in hundreds of secondary schools will be cancelled from next week as the impact of industrial action by teachers starts to be felt even before it begins.

Out-of-school activities, such as matches and geography field trips, could also be hit unless teachers agree to cover for colleagues accompanying pupils on trips.

Advice to schools on how to deal with the teachers' action says pupils' education must come first – but it is clear that other important aspects of school life will suffer.

The two bodies representing managers in almost 500 schools facing the threat of action have issued recommendations to their members – and the main message is to avoid disruption to classes.

They have both responded to directives issued by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), in the dispute with Government over pay and productivity. The Joint Managerial Body (JMB), representing about 380 secondary schools, and the 94-strong Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS) say that their priority is preserving tuition time.

ASTI has banned attendance at meetings outside of school hours, the taking on of additional middle-management duties without pay, and participation in training for the new Junior Certificate.

ABSENT

The union has also advised its 17,000 members that they are no longer obliged to cover for colleagues absent on school business with pupils.

The meetings ban left managers facing the difficult choice of holding meetings during the school day and sending children home early or postponing them.

In terms of parent-teacher meetings, the first casualties will be sessions with parents of Leaving Certificate students, which generally happen in early to mid-October.

If the dispute is short-lived, a short delay would not be a major problem, but schools would not want to put meetings with parents of such a key group on the long finger.

Other meetings that will suffer include those involving school planning activities.

The ACCS advises that if a board of management decides that some meetings have to take place within school time, these should be kept to a minimum to maintain student tuition.

The situation is particularly difficult for ACCS schools because the majority have members in both the ASTI and the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), which has accepted the agreement .

ACCS general secretary Ciaran Flynn acknowledges in his advice that the dual union situation "could lead to difficulties and possible tensions".

On the issue of covering for teachers absent with other pupils, the JMB has advised that while schools are not precluded from making such a request, it will depend on the availability of staff to substitute.

With five days to go to the start of the action, tensions are already inflamed.

The ASTI has delivered a sharp response to a letter it received from the principals' association, NAPD, which warned of the damage the dispute would do to students and staff relations.

ASTI has effectively told NAPD that it, the union, is the voice of principals and deputy principals who are members of the union, and that they support the action being taken.

Irish Independent

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