Quinn warns teachers’ union against rejecting deal

Almost 16,000 secondary teachers will no longer be paid for supervision and substitution work if their union again rejects the Haddington Road Agreement, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has warned.

His declaration came as Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) members prepare to vote again on the deal which has been accepted by all other public service unions. But although officials have secured additional commitments from Mr Quinn’s department to examine concerns over junior cycle reform and teacher employment, the union’s central executive council is recommending another ‘no’ vote.

The minister repeated to the Dáil what he and Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin had previously said, that it was unsustainable for ASTI members to keep getting paid for supervision and substitution (S&S) work that other teacher union members — including Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) colleagues at 40 dual-union schools — now have to do on an unpaid basis.

“I would be less than frank if I didn’t point out to the house that the payment of the supervision and substitution allowance cannot be continued,” Mr Quinn said.

He was talking about the prospect of ASTI members following their leadership’s recommendation to vote against the HRA. The payment, worth almost €1,700 a year, was previously made to more than 90% of all teachers if they signed up for S&S work, but another concession reached in talks between the ASTI and Department of Education earlier this month was that any teachers not previously doing it could opt out in return for a pro-rata pay cut if the union signs up to the deal.

The threat of withdrawal of the payment brings further into focus the possibility of school closures if ASTI members reject the agreement next month, as schools would otherwise have to bring in non-teachers to do the work for health and safety reasons. Asked about this prospect last week, Mr Quinn told the Irish Examiner his department has contingency plans in place but he did not elaborate.

The ballot has been called as ASTI industrial action that started last month continues to disrupt students and parents, with parent-teacher meetings continuing to be held in school hours because of a ban on members attending after-school meetings.

One of the main concerns of ASTI, and of TUI which has members in almost 300 second-level schools, is the plan to replace the Junior Certificate with entirely school-based assessments in most subjects at the end of third year. Asked by Fianna Fáil education spokesman, Charlie McConalogue, if he would change the plan to end state-certified examinations, Mr Quinn said the reforms are being introduced slowly and any necessary changes identified on foot of the roll-out would be implemented.

He said English, Irish and maths would continue to have exams set and marked by the State Examinations Commission until the changes are fully embedded in the system, and equal standards would be ensured between schools by an ongoing moderation scheme for which training is available for teachers and principals.


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