Education

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Subdued Ruairi Quinn finishes teacher conferences quietly

Katherine Donnelly

Published 23/04/2014 | 14:01

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EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn's round of teacher conferences ended on a quiet note today.

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After the controversies stirred yesterday, a more subdued minister got through the annual conference of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) without any further difficulties.

A more subdued minister was greeted with polite silence as he took  his place at the top table and received a round of polite applause when he finished his address.

Before Mr Quinn entered the hall today, TUI general secretary John MacGabhann gave delegates a pep talk on how to receive a guest, making clear that he didn't want any protest to drown him out.

The TUI leader was also concerned that voices from the floor have the potential to hijack media coverage and obliterate the messages that unions use conferences to send out.

He told them they were professionals representing colleagues up and down the country, and to leave it up the TUI president Gerard Craughwell, to deliver important messages to their guest.

The minister also appeared to have taken necessary precautions and was careful to stick to his script and avoid any slip, such as the one over female students and higher level maths that got him into trouble at the primary teachers' conference yesterday.

Later yesterday  Mr Quinn was heckled and booed repeatedly at the annual conference of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) , arising from comments about Junior Cycle reform and the thorny issue of teachers assessing their own students.

Today, he delivered much the same address to the TUI but significantly, it did not include the sentence that appeared to cause most fury at the ASTI -  when having said he had faith in teachers to assess their own pupils, he questioned whether their union leadership had less faith

Someone obviously hit the delete button on the sentence: “It begs the question: does your union have less faith in the professional capacity of you as teachers, than I do” for the version he read to the TUI delegates.

In contrast to the passive response to Mr Quinn's address, delegates enthusiastically applauded Mr Craughwell's almost hour long and strongly critical  reply to the minister.

At one point Mr Craughwell said   “Minister, to be honest we have lost faith in you” and warning again that teachers would not  co-operate with elements of Junior Cycle reform.

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