The Union of Secondary Students or USS was founded and established in January of 2001 by Shane O Donnell, Lorcan Fox, Graham Barry, Carly-Anne Gannon and Lyndsey O Connell. With the aid of the Union of Students in Ireland, the founders of the USS scheduled and carried out its first meeting, which took place in University College Dublin on the 28th of March 2001.
The Union avidly campaigns for the rights of Students and additionally has a close working relationship with The Department of Education and Science, The National Children’s Office, the NYCI, NCCA, NPCPP, CPA, and USI. They are also a member of the Organizing Bureau of European School Student Unions or OBESSU. In April 2004 they had a majority vote which saw the acceptance of membership from students in Northern Ireland and, as of 21 May 2005, the Union of Secondary Students has a total registered membership of 47,000 students in the Republic of Ireland, which represents an estimated 14% of the second level students in the country. The USS has been criticized by many for its apparently close ties with the Government, and not having enough ties with secondary students. Many former officers of the USS were in Government parties and have also argued against protests.
The work of the USS may be categorized into three strands
- To provide training, guidance and advice to students and also equipping them with vital skills which they can use to become involved with decision making in their school community.
- To work in partnership with other organizations to spread the views of secondary school students.
- To provide a service to the membership of the union on the basis that control lies within the membership.
On the 2nd of April 2001 the newly created Union of Secondary Students declared a national student strike as a response to unresolved teacher strikes which had persisted for a period. The student strike lasted only 4 days but had an enormous impact and transformed public opinion to be less than favourable for the teachers who after the protests re-entered the classroom a week later.
In early 2005 the organization successfully used the website ratemyteachers.ie as a bargaining tool with the Department of Education, leading to a number of significant achievements inclusive of, increased school inspections and publication of school inspection reports.
In January of 2008, the USS officially launched its expansion into Northern Ireland in Stormont Assembly. USS representatives met with Caitriona Ruane MLA the Minister for Education NI and a number of issues were discussed at length including the expansion of School Councils in Northern Ireland, and school councelling Services. A new USS Northern Officer was also elected at the 2007 Belfast School Council Training Day. This new more favourable position showed the commitment of USS to its work in NI.