Teachers, parents plan rival protests


Parents and teachers are planning to hold rival protests in Dublin city centre tomorrow.

As the teachers' strike enters its fourth week, the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) plans to hold a rally outside the Dail tomorrow in support of its 30 per cent pay claim. More than 5,000 members are expected to take part.

The action means more than 600 schools will have to cancel classes again - the eighth day since mid-November. The teachers will assemble ail outside Leinster House from 1.30 p.m.

The rally is a major test for the union whose action has failed to win any concessions from the Government. Some members of the other two teachers' unions, the Teachers Union of Ireland and the Irish National Teachers Organisation, are expected to lend support.

Many teachers will picket their schools early in the day and then travel to Dublin, some by bus.

The Congress of Catholic Secondary Schools Parents Associations (CSPA), one of the largest parent groups in the State, is planning a counter-protest, likely to involve Leaving Certificate students.

This will take the form of a march from the ASTI's headquarters at Winetavern Street at 1 p.m. to the Department of Education in Marlborough Street. Parents wishing to take part should turn up at the ASTI's headquarters at 1 p.m., said CSPA spokeswoman, Ms Barbara Johnston.

"The message we will be carrying is for both parties to start talking," she said. She added that the Dublin region of the CSPA was pushing ahead with legal action against the State for not providing education during the ASTI's action.

In another sign of increasing tension between parents and teachers, the National Parents Council (Primary) said teachers should not be given a "free lunch" by the Government's new pay benchmarking body, which begins substantive work shortly.

The director of the parents' group, Ms Fionnuala Kilfeather, said if teachers were given a pay award by the new body it should be contingent on them agreeing to a range of reforms in the education system.

Among these should be: co-operation with the new inspection system; more information for parents on what happens in classrooms; and parent-teacher meetings outside school hours. "It is already costing the economy dearly to have parents taking afternoons and mornings off to attend meetings, when they could easily take place after schools close in the afternoon," she said.

"Some teachers' unions are also refusing to co-operate with the new inspection system, Whole School Evaluation (WSE). In that case it should be said unless you sign up for WSE, the additional money will be taken off the table," she said.

Emmet Oliver can be reached at eoliver@irish-times.ie