Teacher deal plans standard school year

EVERY school in the country will open and close for holidays on the same days under a deal with teachers as part of the benchmarking agreement.

The package finalised between teacher unions and Government officials on Wednesday night will also mean half of parent teacher meetings will take place outside school hours next year.

However, the situation will be reviewed by a group to include teachers, school managers and parents to find more flexible arrangements.

Teachers at primary and second level will gain a 13% pay increase in return for the modernisation deal, which also includes a review of in-service training arrangements and commitment to implement recent education laws.

Parents have welcomed moves to standardise the school year, although they still have some concerns over the parent teacher meeting issue.

“Many parents have children in more than one school, so it should make life easier having them all on the same holidays. It will mean more regularity in people’s lives and also mean having children at home at the same time,” said National Parents Council (Primary) chief executive Fionnuala Kilfeather.

However, parents are uncertain about moves to regularise parent teacher meetings, as parents have sought for years to hold them at night time.

“It seems that little account has been taken of parents, but the benchmarking is supposed to deliver modernisation and improved services for the public. We will be making strenuous efforts to see those improvements in the discussions on meetings,” Ms Kilfeather said.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation said it would be regrettable if the time primary teachers give their pupils was forgotten in the emerging debate on meetings.

“Teachers are willing to be flexible with arrangements for meetings and are anxious that such meetings be held at times that are convenient to parents. But they must also be convenient to teachers,” said INTO general secretary John Carr. He referred to issues around security and safety of teachers and transport difficulties for staff who do not live near their schools getting to evening meetings.

The ASTI, the larger of the two secondary teacher unions, will consider the benchmarking deal when it is finalised. They remained outside the talks in protest during their pay dispute with the Government. But the 17,000-member union will examine the final package when the modernisation details are formally published.

The Teachers Union of Ireland will analyse the modernisation requirements at a meeting of its executive committee next week, president Derek Dunne said last night.

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