Sunday 17 February 2019

Teachers stand firm on Junior Cert reform plan

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

Katherine Donnelly

Second-level teacher union leaders are hanging tough in the face of Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan's decision to push ahead with plans for Junior Cert reform without their agreement.

The Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) drew sighs of relief in education circles when they called off a threatened third strike day in the country's 730 post-primary schools.

But they are keeping in place a directive banning their 27,000 members from co-operating with training or meetings related to the proposed changes.

ASTI general secretary Pat King said that they were not lifting the wider industrial action because they did "not trust the other side" not to roll-out training immediately.

The unions say that proposals produced by Dr Pauric Travers, former president of St Patrick's teacher training college, Drumcondra, represent only the basis for further negotiations and not a comprehensive resolution.

The minister, who decided to forge ahead with the reforms after the unions' conditional acceptance of Dr Travers' proposals, is hoping to get around their directives by making training available online in the weeks ahead.

It remains to be seen how many teachers would be prepared to enlist for online training in defiance of their union.

At the heart of the unions' opposition to implementing a reformed Junior Cert is a proposal that teachers take on some responsibility for assessing their own students.

The original plan for teachers to assess students for 100pc of the marks has been diluted considerably and the current proposal is that the exam be split in two, with the traditional June tests and State certification retained for 60pc of the grade.

Teachers are being asked to assess their students in school once in second year and once in third year, based on, for instance, an oral presentation by the student and project/portfolio work. But they say school-based assessment could lead to inconsistencies and compromise standards.

Mr King said the minister had "come a long way", but their campaign was "about getting an acceptable quality standard of assessment".

While the executive bodies of the two unions continue to present a united front against conceding to the changes, internal differences are emerging about the stance they should now be taking in the row that has dragged on since October 2012.

Union sources say that there is a strong view that the concessions made by the minister and the latest proposals from Dr Travers warrant a more positive response.

The minister has also criticised the unions for not balloting their wider membership on the latest "significantly different proposal from that put to them for consideration previously".

Irish Independent

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