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Taoiseach 'doesn't detect' that teachers want to 'go down the route' of industrial action

The ASTI voted to authorise strike action if a number of issues are not addressed.

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TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said that he doesn’t think that many teachers want to go down the route of industrial action.

His comments come after members of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) voted to take industrial action unless the government addresses several issues related to Covid-19 in schools.

Among the issues teachers have raised include the redefining of close contacts in schools and the introducing a serial testing programme.

Teachers voted in favour of taking industrial action, up to and including strike action, but Martin said today that he “doesn’t detect that many teachers want to go down that route”.

“Many friends of mine are teachers, I keep in regular touch with them to get a sense of what it’s like, how they’re coping. They want to be in school, they really get the importance of it for the children’s development,” he said.

The Taoiseach acknowledged that the current environment for teachers is “challenging” and that Covid-19 has meant “a different type of learning” for teachers.

“It’s a different type of education, the classroom is a much different place for the children and for the teachers. And therefore it’s not easy, and I don’t underestimate the impact,” he said.

The Taoiseach also said that after this week’s mid-term break “school teams” will be established to see if there are specific areas that could be improved upon.

“There will be school teams established now after this break involving both public health and education and also more regular engagement between public health at national level, and unions at national level. Sort of weekly updates in terms of any issues that people may have. And we can always improve,” he said.

There had been previous suggestions that schools may close for an additional week after this week’s midterm break, as is happening in Northern Ireland, but Martin made it clear that this is not happening.;

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“We have no reason not to say that they will open on Monday, of course they will open on Monday,” he said.

The Taoiseach added: “NPHET and the public health authorities are absolutely clear that schools are safe. The Chief Medical Officer said to me last week that they’re safer than being outside of school, certainly for teenagers and that age cohort.”

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said he wanted to “acknowledge the extraordinary work” that the teachers have done since the return of school “every single day”.

Donnelly also cited figures previously released by health officials about positivity rates in schools as evidence of why they are safe.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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