Principals fear winter of discontent over duties

SCHOOL principals fear a winter of discontent for the country’s 730 second-level schools if teacher unions do not lift industrial action in their continuing opposition to the Croke Park pay deal.

The first of two crucial meetings of the second-level unions takes place tomorrow. Ahead of these meetings the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) said it would be very helpful to keep schools running properly if they agree to suspend a number of directives in place since the last school year.

There is an order in place by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) that members must not take on duties of middle management positions left vacant because of a ban on promotions.

The NAPD has warned that schools may be unable to fulfil many obligations if the industrial action continues.

“Services to students survived last year but only because the work was picked up by principals and deputy principals, who are union members as well, but who are not going to let down their students,” said NAPD director Clive Byrne.

With 90 teachers promoted as deputy principals and 60 appointed principals in the 730 second-level schools this autumn, in addition to hundreds of retirements during the summer, senior managers are having to take on more additional duties as lower posts of responsibility are vacated.

Despite Education Minister Mary Coughlan’s concession in July to allow some of the worst-affected schools fill a limited number of those lower management jobs, Mr Byrne said most schools will not have finalised the permitted appointments until later this month.

“If there isn’t a change in the unions’ positions, it’s going to be a winter of discontent in our schools because things just won’t be able to continue as they have over the last six to 12 months,” Mr Byrne said.

“Schools may have difficulty, for example, meeting deadlines to notify the State Examinations Commission about reasonable accommodation requests for students with special needs or the numbers who will be sitting each subject for next year’s Junior and Leaving Certificate.”

The ASTI’s 180-member central executive council will tomorrow discuss a motion that officials talk with the Department of Education about proposals to change supervision and substitution arrangements, revise redeployment arrangements for teachers in overstaffed schools and the extra hour a week and a review of teachers’ contracts set out in the deal.


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