Friday 23 February 2018

Education Minister plans to proceed with changes to the Junior Cert

Jan O'Sullivan
Jan O'Sullivan

Katherine Donnelly, Education Editor

Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan is going ahead with preparations for changes to the Junior Cert – without the agreement of the unions.

The minister said today that no one could “have a veto “ on reforms that everyone else agreed were needed and overdue.

In a first move, the minister will make training  for the changes available online to any teachers who wants to avail of it.

That represents a direct challenge to the continuing ban by the teacher unions to co-operation with teacher training.

The minister was responding to the pre-conditions set by the unions to their continued participation in discussions on the changes.

Earlier today, the unions said they were dropping plans for another one day strike in coming weeks but would  continue other forms of industrial action, such as the  ban on teacher training

Their conditions also include  the deferral  of any  assessment of students in the new English syllabus, which is due to start in 2015/2016 academic year for students who are in second year.

Crucially, they did not concede on the controversial issue of assessing their own students as part of the proposed new arrangements.

Yesterday was the deadline for unions to accept or reject proposals presented by mediator Dr Pauric Travers, former president of St Patrick’s teacher training college, Drumcondra.

The unions’ response was that Dr Travers proposals represented only  “ a basis for further intensive negotiations”.

Meanwhile,  the minister  wrote to Dr Travers yesterday to confirm that she accepted his document “Junior Cycle, The Way Forward” as  a basis for agreement.

She said she intended  to proceed with implementation of the reforms, on the basis outlined in Dr Travers’ document. That means going ahead with teacher training and requiring teachers to assess their own students in English in the next academic year.   But she will  defer the roll-out of the new Science syllabus beyond next September as  originally scheduled.

The Minister said she “deeply regrets the failure of the unions to accept what was a fair and reasonable compromise, put forward by the independent Chair”.

She said that Dr. Travers requested that both parties would either accept or reject his proposals as a basis for agreement, not as a starting point for negotiation.

She added: “Central to Dr. Travers proposal was a suspension of industrial action by both unions, a step they have failed to take.   The failure to suspend industrial action raises the prospect of more unnecessary strike action.  It also deprives teachers of the opportunity to receive training for a reformed and enhanced junior cycle”.

The Minister also said the fact that both unions had failed to accept the compromise proposals without balloting their wider membership on what is significantly different proposal from that put to them for consideration previously was  a matter of concern.

“However, one group cannot have a veto on the reforms which all other partners agree are necessary and overdue”.

She said she was  open to the unions revising their decision and on Monday  her officials would meet other education partners, including students, parents’ representatives and management bodies, all of whom are positive towards the Travers proposals, to update them on her implementation plans.

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