Parents’ group voices concern over school closure threat

Teachers in dispute over Lansdowne Road pay deal and Junior Cycle reform

The National Parents Council Post Primary has expressed concern over  a threat of school closures and strikes by teachers over the Lansdowne Road  deal. File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

The National Parents Council Post Primary has expressed concern over a threat of school closures and strikes by teachers over the Lansdowne Road deal. File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

 

The organisation representing parents of secondary students has expressed concern about a threat of school closures and strikes by teachers over the Lansdowne Road pay deal.

A spokesman for the National Parents Council Post Primary said while it did not wish to interfere in a pay dispute, “we would be adamant at this point that no disruption takes place”.

“The education of our children unfortunately seems to have been held to ransom for the past two to three years and people are getting fed up with it. Parents are very concerned and a lot of teachers are very concerned as well.”

The council said that, aside from the Lansdowne Road dispute, parents had serious concerns that the quality of education was suffering due to continuing protests over the introduction of Junior Cycle reforms.

While the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) has approved the curriculum reform plan, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) - which represents twice as many post-primary teachers - has rejected the latest compromise.

Boycott order

The ASTI has ordered its members to boycott training for the new Junior Cycle programme, which could mean only students whose teachers were members of the TUI would transfer to the new framework, the parents’ council noted.

The ASTI said it had embarked on a consultation process with its members to establish the reasons why the plan was rejected. This is due to be finalised before a meeting of its standing committee on November 12th.

Union officials may then attempt to reopen talks with Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan, or alternatively propose further industrial action over the Junior Cycle reforms.

The risk of separate disruption over the ASTI’s rejection of the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) is acknowledged in a confidential document written by its general secretary Pat King.

In the document, details of which were published in The Irish Times on Friday, Mr King warns that non-compliance with the terms of the pay deal could mean individual teachers forfeiting up to €6,700 in lost increments, and the withdrawal of an extra annual payment of €1,592 due under the agreement.

Mr King said he and other senior officials in both the ASTI and TUI met the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on October 13th last to get clarification of such penalties in the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Fempi) Bill.

Majority decision

Two days later, the ASTI standing committee met to consider whether it would be bound by the majority decision of the public service committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to back the accord.

In the document, which was given to members of the 23-strong standing committee in advance of their meeting, Mr King warned that non-compliance with the LRA would have “profound effects”, and should only be made “on the basis that this is what is best for our members and that this is what our members know, understood and wanted when they were balloting”.

“It is a fact that when members were voting they did not know about or understand what is in Fempi. We do.”

Despite this submission, the standing committee decided not to be bound by the Congress majority, matching a similar motion of the TUI.

Asked whether the ASTI planned to re-ballot on the deal given the general secretary’s advice, a union spokeswoman said there had been no discussion of the matter.