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`Clock-watching' alert

The biggest Irish teachers' union has rejected what it claims are innuendoes from official quarters that its members are not working hard enough.

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation says that staff do an extraordinary amount of unpaid work and has warned the government not to turn them into "clock-watchers". It has released details of a survey on school-related activities done outside school hours.

The survey comes in the middle of talks on a productivity agreement which includes increased allowances and limited early retirement. The government is seeking six extra days from teachers as a quid pro quo for the package, but the unions say this is too much. At primary level, the school year is 183 days, while at secondary level it is only 167 days, one of the shortest in countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The survey involved 869 primary school teachers, and found that if the extra hours were translated into school days they would equal 56 additional days on average per year.

Unpaid work includes preparation, planning and curriculum development, correction of homework, and assessing special needs.

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