Limerick school principal describes strike action as ‘absolute disgrace’

Teachers speak of worry continuous assessment will damage relationship with students

A Limerick secondary school principal has described strike action as a "draconian measure" as schools around the country remain closed for the second time in two months.

Donncha Ó Treasaigh of Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh said pupils, who will have no experience of the new Junior Cert cycle, are suffering the loss of school days because of the strike action.

Teachers say they are protesting over Department plans to make teachers assess 40 per cent of the work of their own students.

“Strike action is a very draconian measure. Closing a school is a really serious issue for parents and for school bodies and for management organisations, and the teachers themselves because they are losing a day’s pay.”


“I believe fundamentally that strike days are an absolute disgrace really in this current climate,” Mr O’Treasaigh said.

Teachers at many of the picket lines in Limerick were reluctant to talk today however their union spokesman Peter Quinn insisted his colleagues do not wish to inconvenience parents and students, in particular leaving cert pupils.

“This is all about reform of the Junior Cert. It’s for the long run, we don’t wish to inconvenience anyone. Teachers are adamant they do not wish to assess their own students for state exams,” said Mr Quinn, who teaches at St Flannan’s Secondary School in Ennis.

Sean Kelly, the TUI rep for Limerick and Kerry, insisted today's action would not delay the Leaving Cert as feared by some parents.

“This action does not affect the Leaving cert whatsoever. The dedicated Leaving Cert Students are taking advantage of the day to do some revision at home and many of them are happy to do that.

“The real issue here is in protecting the Junior Cert and that there is a Junior Cert of integrity and quality going forward and unfortunately the Minister is trying to undermine that Junior Cert and damage its reliability as an assessment of a students ability at that time in their education.”

At Sacred Heart Secondary School in Clonakilty, teachers have been on the picket line since 8.30am.

Wrapped in hats, scarves and gloves, the teachers, who are losing a day’s pay in order to protest, clutch cups of warm coffee and wave as cars pass by, signalling support with a beep of the horn.

Between 30 and 40 staff members teach a student population of 539 at the west Cork school.

Science and Biology teacher Liz O’Sullivan said transparency is key in the assessment process.

“We need independent assessment because this is a very small country. Beyond Dublin, we live in a small community. The way it is, the system is absolutely fair and independently assessed, there is no question or doubt in anybody’s mind.

“I think for the students as they get older, to be independently assessed is far more fair,” she said.

Helen Shanahan teaches Maths and Biology at the school. She says the problem is not continuous assessment, it's about teachers assessing students whom they have built up relationships with.

“It’s the person that they have a relationship with that is now going to be giving them the grade, the A, B, C or D. That’s my problem with it. I just think it will be so different if I am the one grading them and giving them a state cert.

“I enjoy teaching the students and I think that will suffer and that is to the detriment of the students. We are in a way, a kind of role model to them. You want to teach them values. You are teaching them a subject but it’s holistic, you teach them far beyond just the subject,” she said.