Saturday 3 December 2016

ASTI members reject proposals on new Junior Cert

Published 24/09/2015 | 13:16

Jan O'Sullivan
Jan O'Sullivan

Members of one second-level teachers’ union have rejected proposals for a new-style Junior Certificate.

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The 18,000-member  Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI)  has voted 55pc-45pc against the  package.  Only 40pc of ASTI members voted.

However, the other  union, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has accepted the deal by a substantial 69pc-31pc, in a ballot in which 60pc of their members voted.

The ASTI decision will cause major headaches about the status of the reforms,  for which schools are already preparing.

ASTI members have also voted 70pc-30pc to continue industrial action in schools  in support of their ongoing opposition.

It is not decided what  form of action this could  take  - and ASTI general secretary Pat King said today that the union’s executive would be meeting tomorrow to consider the matter.

To date, industrial action has mainly taken the form of not co-operating with training or other preparations for the planned changes.

Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan described the ASTI  result as “deeply disappointing”, while she welcomed the TUI outcome.

Michael Moriarty, general secretary of Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI), representing one in three second level schools said it was “a devastating result from ASTI “.

He said all the education partners and the  Department of Education  had “bent over backwards to accommodate teachers unions. It  seems to me now that it is the ASTI way or no way”.

The two unions presented a united campaign against the proposals and, in light of today’s split, it is unclear what happens next.

After a three year campaign against the original reform package the union leaderships signed off on much diluted version of the proposals  during the summer and agreed to put it to ballots.

Union opposition centred on a requirement for teachers to take on some responsibility for assessing their own students, but this was effectively removed from the final deal.

Earlier this month, the  Department of Education  issued a detailed programme to schools  about the implementation of the changes.

The  first major reform would see second year pupils doing in class assessments in English next Spring.

ASTI president Máire G. Ní Chiarba said that, while the latest proposals addressed a number of significant issues, in an era of education cuts, diminished resources for students and increased teacher workload, teachers did not have faith in the Government. “Second-level schools and teachers are delivering much more with far less. In this context teachers do not trust the Government to adequately resource and support schools as they implement the significant changes required by the Junior Cycle proposals.” Ms Ní Chiarba also said ASTI members had expressed concern about the lack of clarity in the latest  proposals.

“Teachers needed far more clarity and detail about how the process will operate in reality.

“ASTI members are committed to educationally sound reform of the Junior Cycle. We have participated in a robust campaign including two days of strike action which led to significant advances in negotiations. The ASTI will now engage with its members in order to consider how best to pursue the outstanding concerns of teachers,” she said.

However, TUI President, Gerry Quinn said “the  negotiated document provides for reinstatement of a fully externally assessed, state certified Junior Certficate examination and professional time is provided for teachers. Therefore, our key objectives were attained.

He said they  approached the negotiations seeking to improve second level education while protecting teachers from exploitation, and TUI members had decided in a ballot that these key, complementary concerns have been appropriately addressed.

“Our principled position has been protected. The document explicitly acknowledges that significant change must be appropriately resourced from the start.’

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