Saturday 21 April 2018

Katherine Donnelly: The new Junior Cert train is departing the station without ASTI

The decision has been made to press ahead with Junior Cert reforms
The decision has been made to press ahead with Junior Cert reforms
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

If teachers who are ASTI members thought they could hold back the tide of Junior Cert reform, the letter dropping in schools today shows how wrong they were.

By voting No in a recent ballot, and re-imposing a boycott on cooperation with the planned changes - even the diluted version that their negotiators achieved on their behalf - they certainly caused plenty of spluttering.

But throats have cleared now, and the decision has been made to press ahead without them, an extremely rare move in an education system where consultation with the partners, such as unions, school managers and parents, is a cornerstone. Time tends to be given for agreement, particularly between two unions representing the same grades, sometimes teachers in the same staffrooms.

Arranging for the training of members of one union, the TUI, while the other remains outside the fold, would not have been taken lightly, and would not happen if there was any risk that the TUI would remain in solidarity with the ASTI.

After three long years on the campaign trail, with significant concessions won, the TUI clearly felt the time had come to accept, and is ready to move on.

What it means now is that pupils in about 230 schools operated by the Education and Training Boards will be in the frontline to experience fully the modern teaching, learning and assessment methods associated with the reforms - changes that have been advocated and overwhelmingly supported by educationalists not only in Ireland, but the world over.

A decision by the ASTI to hold out against change indefinitely has the potential to create a dual, and unworkable, system where pupils in some schools had the benefit of new educational thinking, while other schools adhered to more traditional methods.

No one really expects that to happen - it could not be allowed to happen - but now that Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan is going ahead, the ASTI, particularly the 11,000 of its 18,000 members who did not vote in the recent ballot, have plenty to think about.

Irish Independent

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