McHugh: 'Everybody is in agreement' on indemnity for teachers

By Daniel McConnell
Political Editor

Union demands for clarity over the proposed indemnity scheme for teachers have been met and they are satisfied, Education Minister Joe McHugh has said.

As a result, the Government’s calculated assessment proposed model for the Leaving Certificate can now proceed.

Mr McHugh said the ASTI and the TUI had overnight received the assurances they needed to cooperate with the government’s scheme.

Unions had demanded that the State fully indemnify teachers from all potential costs and Mr McHugh said the clarifications given had meant agreement had been reached.

“Yesterday evening, the ASTI did seek clarification, as did the TUI seek a number of clarifications on what the indemnity meant. And what it would look like and what would be covered in this indemnity.

“There was further engagement today. And I'm happy now to say that everybody is in agreement in terms of the level of security around the indemnity for teachers, and also for schools and boards of management,” he said.

Mr McHugh accepted that this controversy has added to the stress levels for those 60,000 students due to sit the Leaving Cert this summer, but defended his handling of the matter.

Responding to criticisms that he should have moved to cancel the examinations earlier, he said it would have been a “dereliction of duty” to have done so without a finalised back up plan.

“Well, look, it's been a very stressful, number of months on all students, and in particular Leaving Cert students. They've constantly looked for this certainty,” he accepted.

But as to his role in that stress, Mr McHugh said it was always his preference was for the exam to begin in June.

“That was my plan, that was my plan A. And then, was the uncertainty around Covid and certainly at a time when we didn't know where it would be in terms of the curve in terms of the numbers of people who would be infected, we postponed the Leaving Cert to the end of July, beginning of August,” he explained.

It was the preferred preference of mine from day one for the written exam to go ahead with what we have to do then we had to model what the Leaving Cert would look like under the specific public health guidelines. It was a Leaving Cert that the state examination commission couldn't stand over.

“It was a Leaving Cert that didn't have validity. So therefore, it wasn't in adhering to the expectation of the student for the work that they've done over two years,” he said.

So as a result, he said his officials began to work on what he described as ‘Plan C’ which was the calculated model, which he admitted was not his preferred choice.

“So, I wasn't going to announce that the cancellation of a Leaving Cert without having a fully comprehensive conversation with the key stakeholders,” he said.

“So anybody who called for the cancellation of the Leaving Cert without having a plan B, or C or not, not having an alternative that would have been a dereliction of duty,” he said.

“And I certainly wasn't going to do it as a minister, because it was my duty to ensure that the certainty provided for the students when we announced the cancellation of the Leaving Cert was to have another plan in place,” he said.

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