Battle lines drawn as teachers vote for action over Junior Cert
BATTLE lines have been drawn in the dispute over the new-style Junior Certificate after teachers voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in opposition to the proposals.
The two second-level teacher unions immediately issued directives banning their 27,000 members from co-operating with preparations for the change after the 88-12 vote for action. Although the outcomes were identical, the turnout varied, with less than 45pc of members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) voting, compared with 62pc for the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI).
The non-co-operation bans take effect on Monday, April 7, and, in the short term, mean that teachers will not get involved in any further training or planning for the reform.
The consequences include stopping the development of new Junior Cert subjects, known as short courses, and which include computer coding, under way in about 40 schools.
Teachers have also voted not to engage in school-based assessment of students, a lynchpin of the reform package and the area meeting most opposition from teachers.
This, however, will not take effect for some time – as the first assessment of students under the proposals is not due until the spring of 2016.
The new-style Junior Cert would see the replacement of the traditional June exams and the state certificate with teachers assessing their own students for a Junior Cycle Student Award (JCSA), awarded by schools. The changes are due to be implemented over a number of years, starting in September when a new English programme is rolled out.
Under the reforms, teachers would be required to assess students of English towards the end of second year (spring 2016) and in the Christmas of third year, also 2016, for 40pc of marks in the overall exam.
However, while teachers have voted not to assess students, they will teach the new English programme from September because the unions accept that the Education Minister has the authority to decide the curriculum.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn delivered a low-key response to the ballot results, merely stating that he "noted" the outcome. He said a working group, made up of all the education partners, continued to meet regularly and was the appropriate forum to address any concerns and discuss proposals relating to the reformed Junior Cycle.
Fianna Fail education spokesman Charlie McConalogue said it was time for Mr Quinn "to back away from abolishing all independent assessment and start considering a compromise. And he must do this in full consultation with teachers".
ASTI general secretary Pat King said teachers had always been willing to modernise the Junior Cert and Junior Cycle education, but were not prepared "to implement educationally unsound proposals, which are being unilaterally imposed on them". He said teachers "demanded genuine consultation on their concerns".
TUI General Secretary John MacGabhann said the vote reflected a deep concern that the proposals would impact negatively on the educational experience of young people and on the quality of education.