Saturday 16 December 2017

ASTI second-level teachers vote for strike action

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

SECOND-level teachers are to ban co-operation with preparations for Junior Cert reform from Monday April 7 after voting 88pc-12pc in favour of industrial action.

In a remarkable coincidence, both the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) delivered identical ballot results.

The unions also announced that industrial action would begin on April 7 in opposition to certain elements of the reform plan.

In the short term, they will withdraw from any training and planning activities in relation to the proposed changes and stop the development of new Junior Cert subjects currently underway in about 40 schools.

They have also voted not to engage in school-based assessment of students, one of the lynchpins of the reform package and the area meeting most opposition from teachers.

The change is due to be phased in over eight years, starting in September, when a new English curriculum will be rolled out for first years.

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. 

Teachers say that will put them under pressure from parents to award favourable grades, will lead to wide variations in results and will undermine standards.

ASTI General Secretary Pat King said teachers had always been willing to modernise the Junior Certificate 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 for  industrial action reflected a deep concern that the  proposals would impact negatively on the educational experience of young people and on the quality of the education system.

“They want improvements that are based on equity and consistency. They also want a fair assessment system, externally assessed with state certification. We call upon the Minister to engage meaningfully with us,” he said.

In a response, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said he “noted” the outcome of the ballots by the TUI and ASTI.

He said a working group on the JCSA, set up in January and 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. 

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