ASTI schools are left out of new training for teachers
Pupils in schools where teachers are members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) face being left behind in the biggest reform of the Junior Cycle in 40 years.
Training of teachers for the reformed Junior Cert is resuming after the mid-term break - but it will be confined to schools in the Education and Training Boards (ETB), formerly the VEC sector.
These account for about one third of the country's 730-second-level schools, where teachers are exclusively members of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI). It has voted in favour of the Junior Cycle changes.
The initial phase of training for teachers of English, and others in schools who will be centrally involved in the reforms, will continue until December, equipping them for a new-style assessment of second-year English students in the spring.
A letter arriving in schools today shows a determination to press ahead with the long-postponed reforms, despite the biggest second-level teacher union, the ASTI, not being on board.
The wording delivers the clear message that there will be no further negotiations over the terms of the changes.
It refers to being "respectful of the fact that the ASTI and the Department (of Education) may engage for a period of time to clarify certain matters".
The letter, from Dr Padraig Kirk, director of the Junior Cycle for Teachers' (JCT) training programme, adds that "JCT will be pragmatic in phasing in professional development so that ASTI teachers are scheduled for training later in the programme thereby providing some time for matters to be clarified".
Effectively, it puts it up to the 18,000 ASTI members to support the changes, or be seen to be lagging behind modern classroom approaches.
The ASTI and TUI mounted a three-year joint campaign against the reforms, with much resistance focused on a proposal that teachers take on some responsibility for assessing their own students, thereby reducing reliance on a single set of exams at the end of three years.
That was much diluted in a package that was put to members of both unions in ballots last month, with TUI members voting overwhelmingly in favour on the back of a recommendation from their leadership.
ASTI hardliners won the day at meetings of their union executive bodies and put the package to ballot with no recommendation. Only 38c of ASTI members voted and the result was 55pc-45pc against.
ASTI president Máire Ní Chiarba said members did not trust the Government to deliver the resources for change and that teachers needed far more clarity and detail about how the process will operate.
They are undertaking a survey of members to identify the issues and Education Minster Jan O'Sullivan has offered to provide any necessary clarity.