School chiefs warn of legal action over new courses for Leaving


Hundreds of secondary schools could face legal actions if they do not implement new Leaving Cert syllabi in September, school managers have warned.

The Department of Education has told schools to implement new syllabi in biology and home economics, but the ASTI are refusing to co-operate and school boards of management are caught in the middle of the dispute.

The Joint Managerial Body (JMB), which represents the school managers, has asked for an immediate meeting with the Department of Education to come up with a solution.

Boards of management could be liable if pupils are not instructed in the new syllabi which will be examined in two years' time. School boards are obliged, under several pieces of legislation, to prepare pupils for certificate examinations.

Mr George O'Callaghan, general secretary of the JMB, said, as things stood at present, boards were liable to actions by parents and possibly pupils. He said it was not acceptable that boards, who had not created the dispute between the Government and the ASTI, should find themselves in this position.

He said if the Department of Education issued a circular ordering schools to implement the syllabi, as had already been signalled, schools had no option but to implement this decision.

Because teachers are refusing to co-operate, implementing the decision would be highly problematic, he said.

Mr O'Callaghan said one option would be for the Department to postpone the introduction of the syllabi until there was industrial peace with teachers. He said there might be other options, but the JMB wants some guarantees that its members would not end up being disadvantaged.

The Department of Education is determined to get the syllabi into schools in September, because these two subjects have not been changed in many years and biology, as one of the three main science subjects, is regarded as a highly important part of the curriculum.

Educational publishers such as Folens are also affected by the dispute. They are concerned that if they publish new textbooks in the two subjects, they may not be used and they could lose thousands of pounds.

Meanwhile, the general secretary of the INTO, Mr John Carr, has said people in the education community should use their vote wisely in the election and question candidates closely on education policy.

"While economic policy is important and has helped to create wealth in this country, it is time to spell our clearly how that wealth will be spent. It must be used to create a better future for all. Therefore it is time for primary education to come to the fore," he said.

"I want all the political parties to say clearly how and when they will tackle sub-standard school buildings. The building and repair programme for primary schools is in crisis. It has failed the pupils, teachers and parents of over 100 sub-standard schools from Donegal to Waterford.

"The anger and frustration caused by this has brought protests to the streets and has closed schools," he said.