Children must not be used as pawns in the teachers’ pay dispute by strikes or school closures, a parents’ leader has warned.
Paul Mooney, president of the National Parents’ Council-post primary (NPCpp), was responding to the week-end recommendation by a union’s central executive that its 18,000 members vote for industrial action.
Two ballots of Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) members will take place at more than 400 second-level schools in the next month. If both are carried, union leaders would be authorised to call strikes from the end of October, but could also force schools to close if teachers agree to withdraw from carrying out supervision and substitution duties.
Mr Mooney said the parents’ organisation is not in a position to say how it should be sorted. But, he said, anything that disrupts students’ education must be avoided.
“Children shouldn’t be pawns in this dispute. There are creative ways that disputes can be handled without having to involve innocent bystanders, in this instance the students,” he said.
The ballot on equal pay for newly-qualified teachers proposes that ASTI members could take action, including strikes. The union wants full restoration of the common pay scale for all teachers that existed before 2012 when a number of budget measures saw pay reduced and allowances for qualifications withdrawn for new entrants to the profession.
ASTI members have also been recommended by their 180-member central executive committee to discontinue supervision and substitution duties, for which they are no longer paid. If they vote to do so, lack of cover for this work could force school boards to shut the doors and keep students at home unless contingency arrangements are put in place.
The ASTI is also in continuing dispute over junior cycle reforms which have seen members refuse to take part in teacher training for new assessment. The current status of the dispute means students at most schools will not undergo classroom-based assessments in English this year, which will also leave them unable to gain up to 10% on their written Junior Certificate exams next summer.
Mr Mooney said students should be central to the education system, but it is hard for parents to get a handle on the different issues on which the ASTI is in dispute.
“It doesn’t seem like they have the same issue from one week to the next,” he said.
Mr Mooney said he has not heard to date of any disruption from the instruction to ASTI members to stop working the extra 33 hours a year they had been doing under past public pay deals, such as parent-teacher meetings being held during school hours.
The withdrawal from the extra hours prompted the Department of Education to exclude ASTI from the benefits of the Lansdowne Road Agreement that sees almost all other public servants having salary increments restored.
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