Tuesday 19 February 2019

Junior Cert row rumbles on as O'Sullivan rebuffs union bid for trade-off

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The stand-off between Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan and teacher unions over the Junior Cert continues, after the minister dismissed requests for a trade-off.

The Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) wrote to Ms O'Sullivan offering to suspend all industrial action if the minister also agreed not to push ahead with teacher training and meetings relating to the changes.

But the suggestion met an instant rebuff from the minister who said she intended to stick with her decision to make training available.

The unions' letter followed their decision on Saturday not to accept proposals from mediator, Dr Pauric Travers, as a basis for resolving the dispute.

On Saturday, they withdrew the threat of a third strike day, but said other forms of industrial action would stay in place. This meant that the directive banning their 27,000 members from participating in training or meetings related to the reforms would not be lifted.

In turn, the minister said that she was accepting the Dr Travers' document and announced that she was pushing ahead with the implementation of the reform agenda.

In yesterday's letter, the unions said that, in the absence of further intensive discussions regarding resources, assessment and other matters, Dr Travers' document would remain incomplete and could not be put to a ballot of members.

In her response, the minister said she was pleased the unions had reached a position where they were giving some consideration to the suspension of action.

She referred to her previous compromise offer - rejected by the unions - and the subsequent discussions under the chairmanship Dr Travers, a former president of St Patrick's teacher training college, Drumcondra.

She said the proposals, which required further compromise on her part, presented a basis for agreement. She pointed that in accepting the Travers document she was agreeing to the postponement of the new science syllabus - but noted that Dr Travers made clear that teacher training should recommence immediately.

"It remains my intention to abide by that recommendation," she wrote. Coincidentally, as the unions released their letter, a new website for the Junior Cycle for Teachers support service, was launched. The website allows for teachers to engage in online training if they so wish.

Ms O'Sullivan said if the unions accepted Dr Travers's proposals, she would be open to discussions on resources and the implementation of the reforms.

At the heart of union opposition to the reform plan is the proposal that teachers take on some responsibility for assessing their own students in a new-style Junior cert.

Irish Independent

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