Secondary schools may close due to ASTI dispute

Teachers’ withdrawal from supervision duties could lead to widespread disruption

ASTI secondary school teachers are balloting for industrial action over a number of issues, including the pay of recently-recruited teachers and penalties imposed on them by the Government for “repudiating” the Lansdowne Road agreement. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

ASTI secondary school teachers are balloting for industrial action over a number of issues, including the pay of recently-recruited teachers and penalties imposed on them by the Government for “repudiating” the Lansdowne Road agreement. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The Department of Education has warned more than 500 secondary schools are at risk of closure over the coming weeks if the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland votes for industrial action.

Members of ASTI are currently balloting for industrial action over a number of issues, including the pay of recently-recruited teachers and penalties imposed on them by the Government for “repudiating” the Lansdowne Road public service pay agreement.

There is now growing concern in the Department of Education that a withdrawal by ASTI members from supervision and substitution duties could lead to widespread disruption or even the closure of up to 525 second-level schools where the union represents staff.

ASTI members had been scheduled to receive about €700 this year and the same amount in 2017 for carrying out supervision and substitution duties. However, this payment has been withheld by the department.

External personnel

The department also wants ASTI to confirm that school principals who are members of the union would not be prevented from operating contingency plans to take on and assign such external personnel to carry out supervision and substitution duties.

In addition, it wants assurances that ASTI members will not hinder the activities of any external personnel .

Contractual duties

It is understood that if schools close on health and safety grounds due to a withdrawal of supervision and substitution duties, teachers would not be paid as the Department of Education would consider them in breach of their contractual duties.

Secondary school management bodies have been drawing up contingency plans to hire hundreds of staff to help prevent schools closing as a result of potential industrial action. If supervision and substitution duties are withdrawn, school management say there are real risks schools will close.

While teachers would be available to teach they would not be available to monitor break times or fill in for teachers who are sick or away on school trips.

Management bodies for about 500 secondary schools are planning to hire supervisors to fulfil these duties. It is understood these supervisors could be paid about €20 an hour and would need to be Garda-vetted in compliance with child-safety legislation. Vetting is understood to take about three weeks, but could be fast-tracked, according to informed sources.

Under the contingency plan the boards of management of each schools would be responsible for hiring supervisors, while the Department of Education is understood to be prepared to make funds available.