Monday 20 November 2017

Teachers warn schools are not ready for Junior Cert changes

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Schools are lacking basic facilities, such as properly equipped science laboratories, that will be essential for the proposed new Junior Cert, teachers have warned.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) highlighted a lack of resources in schools to deliver the changes - as it raised the prospect of more strikes in opposition to the proposed reforms.

No further stoppages are expected before June, but they are likely to be back on the agenda from September.

ASTI president Philip Irwin said strike action would be necessary in the absence of agreement.

ASTI general secretary Pat King said they were trying to avoid strike action.

He said much would depend on how the situation developed and whether Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan took any precipitous action.

Ms O'Sullivan is pressing ahead with arrangements for the changes in the absence of an agreement with unions.

Unions are mainly opposed to the plan for teachers to take on some responsibility for assessing their own students, but the capacity of schools to embrace the reforms is also a concern.

Among the findings of a survey, carried out for the ASTI by Millward Brown, are that 61pc of science teachers state that lab facilities are inadequate, while 53pc of principals say their school does not have enough science labs.

Other issues that are impacting on schools' capacity to implement the changes include class sizes and access to information technology (IT) equipment, the survey found.

Mr King said class sizes had increased significantly since the cut to the pupil-teacher ratio in 2009. This was particularly concerning given the emphasis in the new framework on using a broad range of teaching and learning methodologies and on developing skills such as verbal communication, collaboration and team work, and social and emotional skills.

The survey also highlighted a lack of preparedness on the part of teachers for the changes ahead - but the two unions have placed a ban on members participating in training.

Among the other findings was that the majority of principals said their teachers' existing workloads and lack of time were a key barrier to effective implementation of the changes.

A Department of Education spokesperson pointed out that the minister had acknowledged the need for discussions about additional teaching and other resources to support the changes.

She was engaging with school managers on this issue and had also published plans for a training programme for teachers.

Irish Independent

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