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placards at dawn

"It's not a holiday for us ... it will actually cause more work"

Who’ll blink first in the junior cycle row? Not the teachers, by the sounds of it… stopped by one city centre picket this morning to take the temperature.

WRAPPED IN SCARVES and hats as they paced the pavement of Stephen’s Green this morning, the staff of Loreto College were quick to point out that today’s strike wasn’t a ‘day off’ for either teachers or students.

“We would have given our students work to do today — which we will all have to correct tomorrow. So it’s not a holiday for us … it will actually cause more work,” Irish and French teacher Jill Cunningham told 

We won’t be slacking off.

Daragh Brophy / Daragh Brophy / /

You have to feel sorry for Loreto on the Green sometimes.

The school’s location, bang in the centre of Dublin, means it’s often the first port of call for reporters, whenever teachers go on strike.

At least one photographer called by during the short time we were down there this morning — and we wouldn’t be surprised if at least some of the faces featured here pop up on this evening’s TV bulletins.

Not everyone was keen to talk or have their photo appear. Others — well used to the attention, no doubt — were happy to speak out in defence of the day-long action.

“We know it’s disruptive but for over two years we have been bringing this issue to the attention of the Department of Eduction,” business teacher Jane Kelly said.

Its only when we took drastic action and took strike action that anyone has started to listen to what our concerns are.

Video / YouTube

There’s been criticism of the timing of today’s action from some parents’ and students’ groups. Ibec, meanwhile, has called on the Government not to row back on the planned reforms, and ISME — which represents small and medium businesses — even suggested teachers should be prevented legally from going on strike.

The Loreto teachers, however, were having none of it.

The move was “for the long term good of education,” Cunningham insisted.

It’s impossible to be objective when you’ve taught children for three years, and then be expected to mark their results. You cannot possibly look at an exam script and actually just leave what you know about the student to one side.

“The whole new junior cycle is very much actually in response to the likes of what Ibec are suggesting — so collaborative learning, [and] we’re putting maths and sciences to the forefront.

But actually, we’re not willing to put the holistic approach to education to the background.

Daragh Brophy / Daragh Brophy / /

As to whether their students — some of whom are facing into State exams in a matter of months — would be kept busy all day today with their assigned work.

“That’s up to them, really.”

Passing drivers issued the occasional beep of support for the teachers, as the small group marched up and down (and up and down) in near freezing conditions.

Of the school’s 50-odd teaching staff, the vast majority are taking part in today’s picket — apart from “a small handful” of non-union members, one staff member said.

In line with what’s happening at actions up and down the country, the women are organising their day into shifts — with everyone expected to spend at least a few hours clutching centrally-issued union placards, and dealing with overtures from passing members of the Fourth Estate.

Read: Mock battle: Students’ last-minute plea to teachers as pickets begin

Read: There was a queue of people waiting to use Dublin’s new homeless café when it opened last night

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