ASTI dispute Q&A

The question has arisen during the current ASTI dispute as to whether supervising students outside of class times is the duty of a second-level teacher. Ahead of the union’s proposed withdrawal from such work next week, the issues involved are examined by Niall Murray.

What does the ASTI say on this question?

In an interview last week, ASTI president Ed Byrne said supervision and substitution are not part of a teacher’s core duties. “I’m not a yard-minder, I’m a schoolteacher. It’s not my job, that’s my lunchtime.”

What does a teacher’s contract say?

There is no standard teacher contract for the voluntary secondary schools where most ASTI staff work. A template used by those schools is in place since 1957, but various elements have been superseded by legislation and Department of Education circular letters. A full-time second-level teacher is timetabled for 22 hours of teaching each week but the amount of related work may be significantly more than those 22 hours.

But hasn’t supervising students always been a core part of a teacher’s day-to-day duties?

Historically, yes, this work was done under local arrangements in each school, not just supervising children before and after school, or during lunch and yard breaks, but filling in for colleagues who were absent on school business, such as taking a school team or other group to a match or other event.

But ...

From 2003, second-level teachers were paid for committing to 37 hours a year of supervision and substitution. They were paid an additional allowance that reached €1,769 a year — equivalent to nearly €48 an hour — by 2013.

So what changed?

Under the Haddington Road Agreement, participation in the supervision and substitution scheme became compulsory for all teachers from 2013/14 school year, the number of hours rose to 43 a year and the allowance was no longer paid.

Therefore every member of the ASTI is obliged to do this work?

Almost all. The only exception was an opt-out available to the minority of second-level teachers who had not been signed up to be rostered for these duties at their schools during the previous school year.

However, if they chose not to do the work from there on, they had €1,769 removed from their salary each year until retirement (or €1,592 — 10% less if the teacher had started their career from 2011 onward).

But Ed Byrne said members of other unions are being paid for the work, is that right?

Under the Haddington Road Agreement, a payment of €1,592 is being added to teachers’ salaries in two phases, beginning this school year. However, because ASTI members refuse to do 33 extra hours a year (so-called ‘Croke Park’ hours), the Department of Education has not paid them the first phase, €796, which has been given to TUI and INTO members. The 2014 circular letter setting out the details of this additional payment, does not state that the pay increase is for doing supervision and substitution work.

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