Teachers will not seek additional pay for time spent in the classroom ahead of the postponed Leaving Cert exams this summer, the head of the largest second-level teachers’’ union has confirmed.
This follows the decision by the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) to support the postponement of the Leaving Cert exams until at least the end of July. This includes returning to classrooms for two weeks during the holidays to assist students ahead of their final exams.
Union members will “absolutely not” be seeking pay for this time, according to Deirdre McDonald, president of the ASTI.
“This is nothing new to teachers,” she said. “Extracurricular activities, sports, choirs, music, all sorts of different things. All of those are all given free.”
When the initial announcement was made last Friday, the union advised members that it was not enforceable. However, the union supported the decision in principle, Ms McDonald told RTÉ.
“We had some serious concerns. We wanted to consult with our members.
The response has been overwhelmingly that they absolutely are behind coming back into school to do the face-to-face bit of work that is necessary to support the students going into the exams.
The union still has serious concerns, she added.
“We have grave concerns around practical work, project work, special needs students and there will be more [concerns] as well because of the present situation.
“Also around teachers, for example, who may be living with two elderly parents, who are compromised, or who have health needs,” she said, adding that there is a myriad of health issues that need to be discussed.
Issues around childcare and contracts have been raised by ASTI members, she added.
"I do hope that everyone has taken Easter off, left the study and left the teaching. That has been the advice from the department, from the minister, and ourselves. Similarly in June, this is about people being able to sustain themselves," she said, adding that this applies to students as well.
“They need to take June off and then towards the end of June, students start to re-engage. Likewise, teachers will support the students and then when it comes into July, as the plan is presently in place, the face-to-face will take place.” The ASTI is due to meet with the Department of Education shortly to discuss its concerns.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education said that all plans for the postponed Leaving Cert are subject to public health advice.
Not running the Junior Cert exams in June will mean there should be more examiners available to supplement the marking of Leaving Cert papers.
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) also has plans to recruit more examiners, which will help make the correction process as efficient as possible. The revised exam timetable will not be published until June, according to the SEC.
"The public health situation remains fluid and so decisions in respect of the details of running the examinations can only be made closer to the commencement date."
The SEC and the Department of Education is examining alternative arrangements for students who may be unable to attend exams on health grounds as they may be ill or in quarantine, and for students who suffer a bereavement.