Tuesday 6 December 2016

Teachers in one-day strike threat over new-style Junior Cert exams

Published 17/03/2016 | 02:30

Outgoing Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan. Photo: Tom Burke
Outgoing Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan. Photo: Tom Burke

Teachers objecting to Junior Cert changes are now threatening a wave of one-day strikes that will close up to 500 schools, forcing 250,000 students to stay a home.

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The Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) is ratcheting up its campaign of resistance against the reforms, with stoppages planned from September.

The other second-level teachers' union, the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), has signed up for the new junior cycle and its members are currently being trained in the revised curriculum.

But ASTI hardliners are pushing a 'no compromise' stance and the union's powerful Standing Committee took the decision, in principle, on strike action on Tuesday.

At the moment, the extent of the ASTI action is non co-operation with preparations for change, such as training.

If the row is not resolved, it means an unacceptable creation of a two-tier system, with some schools able to introduce new subjects, such as coding, in September, while others are plunged into industrial unrest.

About 260, or one-in-three, second-level schools - those under the patronage of an education and training board (ETB) - have the full co-operation of their teachers, members of the TUI.

Teachers in ETB schools have been trained to conduct the new-style classroom assessments of pupils, due to start for second-year students of English, either next term or in September.

September is also the starting date for new syllabi in business studies and science, for which TUI members are currently being trained.

There are about 370 voluntary secondary schools - generally those under the control of the religious - where the ASTI represents teachers, and where there is no co-operation.

The situation is less clear cut in 96 community and comprehensive schools, where both the ASTI and TUI have large numbers of members.

An ASTI spokesperson said that it would plan for a series of strike days to take place from the autumn if the dispute was not resolved

Outgoing Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan decided last autumn that the reforms, proposed almost four years ago, must be implemented.

She said that the minority of ASTI members who voted (in a low turnout ballot) against the last set of compromise proposals would not be allowed exercise a veto and the Department of Education recently issued a circular setting out detailed implementation arrangements.

The ASTI is now putting the next minister under pressure to concede to its demands or face school strikes in September.

ASTI resistance to the original proposals centred on the plan for teachers to assess their own students for a State certificate, but having won a significant concession on that, the union is now challenging other elements of the reforms.

Irish Independent

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