TEACHERS, parents and other interested groups will continue to lobby for a reversal of education cutbacks in the coming weeks and months despite their failure to persuade government TDs to vote against them.
The attendance of 12,000 people at a protest against education cuts outside the Dáil on Wednesday night will be used as a reminder to the Government of public concern about the issue, regardless of its survival on the Labour Party motion on class sizes yesterday.
It is understood that a number of government backbenchers have already agreed to lobby Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe and other cabinet members on those concerns.
The most urgent worries are about the impact of changes to substitution cover for teachers on uncertified sick leave from January, which primary and second-level schools say will lead to closures or children being sent home because of an inability to have classes supervised.
The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) outlined to Mr O’Keeffe yesterday, in a meeting after the Dáil vote, the effects it expects the cutbacks will have on schools.
“We emphasised the damaging effects that the removal of substitution will have in the very short term. We asked him to reflect very seriously on that matter because primary and second-level managerial authorities have said schools will be in chaos because of that decision,” said ASTI general secretary John White.
However, there was no sign that any changes are likely to be made to the proposed budget cuts.
“The minister told them he wants their members to work with him through the challenges ahead and co-operate with any changes proposed,” Mr O’Keeffe’s spokesman said.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) will hold rallies against education cuts each Saturday between November 8 and December 6 in Galway, Tullamore, Cork, Donegal and Dublin and ASTI members are being asked to highlight the effects on their schools to local Government party TDs in the coming weeks.
The result of a ballot of the INTO’s 25,000 members on the latest national pay deal is expected to be known at the weekend. It is unclear if this or the ballots of the ASTI and Teachers’ Union of Ireland — open until November 7 and 14, respectively — will be used by the country’s 60,000 teachers as a protest vote against the budget.
However, the 6% pay rise which the deal would secure them and other public servants over 21 months from next September could be hard to turn down, given the economic changes witnessed even since the deal was agreed six weeks ago.
Mr White stressed that the pay deal and the budget are separate issues.
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