A marathon meeting of teacher union leaders was under way late last night to decide their response to the latest Junior Cert reform peace proposals.
The unions were up against a deadline to accept or reject a plan put forward by mediator Dr Pauric Travers, the former president of St Patrick's teacher training college, Drumcondra.
The executive bodies of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) met in joint session for much of the day.
During a break in discussions, ASTI president Philip Irwin said the unions were giving very serious consideration to the proposals.
He said the unions saw the proposals as a basis for further discussion but wanted substantial changes to them.
If the unions do agree to ongoing discussions around the plan, a crucial question will be whether they will also call off further industrial action.
When Dr Travers presented his document two weeks ago, he said that if the unions accepted it, they would also have to call off their industrial action, with immediate effect.
The unions have already had two strike days in the current academic year, locking out almost 350,000 students, and have threatened a third strike day if the dispute continues. Tuesday March 24 has been mentioned as a possible date for a further stoppage.
In turn, Dr Travers asked the Department of Education to postpone the roll-out of the new Science syllabus beyond its scheduled date September 2014.
So far. the revised syllabus in English is the only element of the Junior Cert reforms that was introduced in schools before the unions imposed their industrial action, including non-cooperation with any further change.
Dr Travers said the gestures he was seeking from the unions and the department would create the breathing space necessary to allow for discussions around the implementation of change, including the resources necessary.
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan said she hoped teachers would view Dr Travers' proposals as fair and if the unions were willing to use them as a basis for agreement, then she was as well.
At the heart of opposition to the Junior Cert, reform plans is the proposal teachers take over some responsibility for assessing their own students.