Warning over effects of secondary teacher dispute
Disruption limited so far but could worsen after the midterm break
The dispute was not a victimless dispute and the ones who would ultimately suffer were the students, said Kay O’Brien, president of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals
Industrial action by the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland, (ASTI) has caused only limited disruption in schools so far but things could worsen quickly after the midterm break, the president of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals warned yesterday.
“Up to now we have been coping well and are letting things pan out but hard questions will start soon from students and parents and teachers,” said Kay O’Brien. “The feeling is people are holding off but that won’t last.”
She was speaking in Galway, where the school heads are holding their annual meeting.
Prospects look bleak for any quick resolution of the dispute which relates to the rejection of the Haddington Road agreement by members of the ASTI.
In a statement yesterday, the ASTI said it had made clear that the dispute would be resolved only through talks on the issues of concern to schools and teachers.
“We have repeatedly stated that we are available for talks. We have also sought to minimise the impact of the industrial action on students,” it said.
The Department of Education and Skills said it would be making no comment on a call by the principals and deputy principals for a resumption of negotiations between the ASTI and the Government.
Instead it referred to a question-and-answer presentation explaining the impact of the circular issued last week by the department, which sets out teacher entitlements in light of the agreement vote. The other main unions – the Teachers’ Union of Ireland and the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation – have accepted the agreement.
Ms O’Brien said this was not a victimless dispute and the ones who would ultimately suffer were the students.
“It just can’t go on interminably. The biggest concern people had [was] how long is it going to continue. If we don’t get talks what is the future? People here are really, really worried,” she said.
The level of disruption was relatively minor but this was unlikely to persist, she said. A backlog of planning meetings and staff meetings was building up, making things more difficult down the line, she added.
“Next week some schools may go with parent-teacher meetings and an afternoon with be given for that,” she said. This is because members of the ASTI will not agree to meetings taking place after school hours.
“There is still good collegiality there between staff members but the real worry is that this will not continue,” she said.
“The principals and deputies really want the schools to work. We are trying our best to keep things up and running at the moment. And there is an added difficulty for schools with dual unions.”
The meeting in Galway also heard of concerns about the budget.
The pupil-teacher ratio remained unchanged but it was too high and “unsustainable”, delegates heard.