Monday 9 December 2019

Parents' body calls on teachers to drop strike plan in Junior Cert row

Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan.
Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan.

Katherine Donnelly and Anne-Marie Walsh

Parents' groups have delivered a strong message to teachers not to go ahead with strike action next month in the row over Junior Cert reform.

There was no support for the teacher unions' position at the annual conference of the National Parents Council Post Primary (NPCpp), which took place over the weekend.

NPCpp president Don Myers said: "We want teachers to get on with their job, to teach our children and to accept the changes".

He said the votes on strike action pre-dated last week's significant compromise proposals from Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan "and they should have gone back to their members, or at the very least not be treating our children as pawns".

Teacher union representatives who participated in an open forum at the conference were subjected to robust exchanges with delegates.

Jim Moore, former chief executive officer of the NPCpp, challenged the view that the unions did not take strike action lightly and said "every time they want to get at the Department of Education, they use parent teacher meetings".

The conference included workshops explaining what the proposed changes would mean for teachers and students.

Meanwhile, Ms O'Sullivan has made a last ditch effort to halt disruptive strikes in more than 700 second-level schools by asking unions to new talks this week. She has invited leaders of the Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) and Teachers' Unions of Ireland (TUI) to discussions on Wednesday after they announced two day-long work stoppages.

Teachers are set to mount pickets on December 2 and another date in January, to be decided, after rejecting a deal put on the table last week.

At Wednesday's meeting, Ms O'Sullivan will insist that unions make some compromise after they refused to entertain her proposal that they mark 40pc of their students' Junior Cert exams. The minister has said she made significant concessions by asking them to grade only 40pc of their students' work, rather than all of it.

The compromise tabled also involved retaining a State certificate to record student achievement at this stage in their education, rather than introduce a school-based award.

The unions do not want to get involved in grading their own students at all and argue that it will lead to inconsistencies in results between schools.

They have also expressed concerns about the capacity of schools to deliver such radical change, particularly after the cutbacks of recent years and the refusal of the minister to discuss what extra resources might be available to support the reforms, unless the unions agree to mark 40pc of the exam.

A spokesperson for Ms O'Sullivan said the minister wanted to engage and believed the package she has offered would have the capacity to deliver reform and address teacher concerns.

He said if the central issue of in-school assessment is agreed, subsidiary issues like teachers' professional development through training, resources and timetables would be discussed.

Mr Myers said the NPCpp had always expressed confidence in the teaching profession and now "we are asking teachers to show that they have confidence in themselves".

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News