Last year’s rescheduling of English Paper II was an eye-opener for many. It’s a huge operation to get a few million sheets of paper to the thousands of students across the country sitting the junior and leaving cert. Usually this is simply done by delivery however in 1979 the country was at standstill from a 17 week postal strike.
New documents released from 30 years ago show how extra effort was made for those state exams.
Back then, the papers were issued from Department of Education offices in Athlone. However pickets were placed on the offices every day during the strike. If this had succeeded then the whole exam month would have been cancelled, not just one exam. We can all imagine the disruption this would have caused!
The papers were eventually distributed to all schools however not without struggle and with what could be described as an army style operation.
Plan A was to use the usual van drivers. In theory they would deliver the papers to every school no problem, however no van drivers were willing to pass the pickets.
Plan B was to simply have department officials drive the papers in their cars to the schools. This also proved problematic. The pickets meant that all cars had a strong Garda escort. One batch wasn’t able to leave until a 10 hour siege ended!
Plan C worked. In the end, the department used Army defense trucks to transport the bulk of examination papers out of the office!! Examinations went ahead as scheduled.
All these operations were done in the dead of night. This was to avoid the pickets. However the pickets ran through the night and many feared the stand-offs would turn violent. Thankfully they didn’t.
It goes to show how industrial disputes and strikes can effect the exams that all of us work so hard towards. No one knows what will happen in the new year with regards our teachers and the public sector however let’s hope that the class of 2010 is as lucky as the class of 1979.
Read more here.