Kenny tells teachers in ‘interests of country’ not to close schools

Closures expected to be indefinite, affecting 250,000 students in hundreds of schools

 A file image of ASTI president Ed Byrne  with striking teachers at Dominican College, Griffith Avenue, Dublin. Industrial action by ASTI members from Monday may lead to the closure of hundreds of secondary schools. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

A file image of ASTI president Ed Byrne with striking teachers at Dominican College, Griffith Avenue, Dublin. Industrial action by ASTI members from Monday may lead to the closure of hundreds of secondary schools. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has urged the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) not to take industrial action that is expected to force a large number of schools to close on Monday

The ASTI has directed members to cease providing supervision and substitution duties from Monday November 7th, when schools re-open following the mid-term break, as part of a dispute over pay and conditions.

As a consequence more than 500 secondary schools with a high proportion of Asti members on the teaching staff are expected to be unable to open.

The closures are expected to be indefinite, affecting up to 250,000 students and their parents.

“In the interest of the country” Mr Kenny called on teachers not to proceed with the industrial action, adding that he hoped talks could be concluded in time to avoid the industrial action.

“In the interests of the country and in the interests of young people it is not a good situation to have 250,000 pupils discommoded and their parents by virtue of the fact that schools cannot be opened,” Mr Kenny said.

“I make the point to you that schools are opened by boards of management and parents expect teachers to be on duty when they drop off their kids at school and if the requirements to meet health and safety demands are not met schools cannot be opened.”

Talks aimed at averting the closure of schools may run into this weekend.

Discussions between the ASTI and the Department of Education finished on Thursday evening without any significant progress, according to sources.

The ASTI’s executive committee is due to meet on Friday to take stock of its position and further contacts between both sides are likely on Friday.

Both sides have signalled that they are available for talks over the weekend, but time is running out to prevent the closure of hundreds of secondary schools.

Speaking in the Dáil on Thursday, Minister for Education Richard Bruton told Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne that talks between the union and the Government continued all last week and this week to try to avert industrial action over the pay of newly qualified teachers and the withdrawal of supervision and substitution.

Mr Bruton said “many schools have had to make a decision as to whether they can meet the health and safety requirements of supervision of children. It is our understanding that a large number of schools will not be able to remain open once supervision and substitution is withdrawn.”

Mr Byrne called for an update on the issue and for the Government to tell parents “what’s going to happen next week, because quite frankly most people are in the dark” and there was “an information deficit” for teachers.

The Minister stressed that “throughout this I have been at pains to seek to keep the schools open and to extend to the ASTI members the benefits that have been possible.

The withdrawal of supervision and substitution is a withdrawal of a core part of teachers’ duties.”

Mr Bruton pointed out that there had been no formal offer from the ASTI.

However, “we have a very formal offer which we put on the table which is we would pay in full all the supervision and substitution money; that we would extend up to 22 per cent up to newly qualified teachers; we’d extend flexibility on the Croke Park hours; extend promotional opportunities if the ASTI do the same as every other public servant and work the hours that were agreed under Croke Park”, an extra 33 hours a year.