With some local teachers joining their colleagues nationwide in a day of strike action over equal pay for newly qualified teachers, the head of their main union has denied using children as pawns in their dispute.
Almost 70% of secondary schools around the country are closed today as members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland undertake what is planned to be the first in a series of seven days of strike action on the issue.
Up to a quarter of a million secondary students are staying at home this morning and it is thought many schools will not re-open after the mid-term break when ASTI members plan to withdraw from supervision and substitution duties.
Speaking this morning ASTI president Ed Byrne says they are being left with no other choice but to take this action.
“Every teacher who’s in a classroom cares about their children, and they do not use them as pawns.
“That’s clichéd and I hate when I hear it, because that’s not the case.
“At some point, you reach the point in the road where you can’t get any further by talking.
“It’s unfortunate, I have no interest in discommoding parents or their children.
“The children are our prime concern.”
All but one of the country’s voluntary secondary schools, where ASTI membership is concentrated, and most of the community and comprehensive schools, with both ASTI and Teachers’ Union of Ireland members on their staff, are closed.
Most schools run by the Education and Training boards, formerly the VECs, will be open as they are primarily staffed by TUI teachers, who are not on strike.
However 43 out of 265 of these schools will close too.
All schools will reopen tomorrow before closing for the midterm break.
ASTI General Secretary Kieran Christie has said that so far the gap between the union and the Department of Education remains “substantial”.