Saturday 20 July 2019

No break in Junior Cert row as O'Sullivan meets union

Kate McHugh and her daughter Clionadh from Carlow at the TUI's annual congress. Photo: Mark Condren
Kate McHugh and her daughter Clionadh from Carlow at the TUI's annual congress. Photo: Mark Condren

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan says she does not want the row over Junior Cycle reform to continue into the next school year.

"It is not in anyone's interests," she said, after addressing the annual conference of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI).

But as the minister ended her round of teacher conferences, there was no sign of any break in the impasse between her and the two second-level teacher unions.

Speaking to the TUI, Ms O'Sullivan criticised the unions for banning members from attending training courses starting next week for the new-style Junior Cert English exam.

The minister said directives issued by the unions preventing their members from attending training "sit uneasily with the real commitment I know you have to openness to knowledge and learning".

She told the delegates that the Junior Cycle reforms presented an opportunity to make a "step-change" in the quality of the future learning experience for students.

Ms O'Sullivan said she was ready and willing to engage with the unions on the resources needed to implement proposals put forward recently by Dr Pauric Travers.

However, that would require the unions to suspend industrial action, including their ban on training of teachers to equip them for the reforms.

The minister got a businesslike reception, some applause and even a standing ovation at one point when she defended the right of unions to be consulted, but there was no yielding on the Junior Cert.

TUI president Gerry Quinn told the minister that she could not proceed with implementation of the Junior Cycle changes as long as teachers "willingly and enthusiastically implement the non-co-operation directives".

Earlier, both Mr Quinn and the president of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), Philip Irwin, reaffirmed their opposition to co-operation with the reform programme because of the plan for teachers to take on some responsibility for assessing their own students.

In a statement, they said teachers of English would find it "professionally repugnant" to assess their own students in an oral exam as envisaged in the reforms.

Irish Independent

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