Sports fixtures hit by teachers’ action

The impact of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland industrial action that was suspended last night had already started reaching beyond the classroom and into sporting competitions.

More than 17,000 teachers picketed over 500 schools for the second time in a fortnight yesterday.

Around 400 of them were due to stay closed indefinitely owing to lack of staff to supervise students or provide substitute cover for teacher absences, with ASTI members going unpaid for each day their schools did not open for students.

As exam students tried to deal with the impact on their studies and parents raised concerns about the effects, school sporting and other events had been affected. Nearly 50 games fixed for today in Munster colleges senior football and U16-and-a-half hurling were called off on Monday evening and it was unclear last night if they would now proceed or not.

If not, they were to be rescheduled for a fortnight’s time, assuming that the industrial relations conciliation was continuing through to late November, as expected. Yesterday, an official of the the GAA’s Munster post-primary council said the fixtures schedule had been “in limbo” and any prolonged extension of the dispute was likely to cause great difficulties.

Many schools that are not fully staffed by ASTI members had arranged temporary staff to supervise students during lunch breaks and other periods, or hoped to have them in place later this week. As reported by the Irish Examiner yesterday, there were greater difficulties finding non-ASTI teachers to take classes for colleagues accompanying students to sports or other activities that require time out during the school day. That could also have affected curricular activities, such as field trips or attending plays or exhibitions related to coursework.

ASTI president Ed Byrne said the effects of the dispute were a cause of regret for his members, as it is impacting on students.

“Sports fixtures can always be reset. Obviously, we’re concerned when we’re beginning to lose tuition time, these things are utmost in teachers’ minds,” he said.

But the Irish Second-level Students’ Union (ISSU) said it had been trying to meet the ASTI for the past month to discuss ways of minimising disruption to students.

“We want to meet with ASTI, but we haven’t had any word back. We started requesting they meet us four weeks ago,” said ISSU president Jane M Hayes Nally.

ASTI deputy general secretary, Diarmaid de Paor, said the union has no difficulty meeting ISSU representatives.

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