Friday 19 July 2019

We'll reform without you, O'Sullivan tells teachers

Unions refuse to give their backing to new plan to reform Junior Cert

KATHERINE DONNELLY and DANIEL McCONNELL

Teachers' unions last night said they would fight any attempt by Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan to force them to accept a new plan to reform the Junior Cert.

The minister yesterday piled pressure on unions by insisting changes to the Junior Cert must go ahead - with or without their agreement.

Ms O'Sullivan said she intended to proceed with the implementation of Junior Cycle reform, on the basis outlined by Dr Pauric Travers in a new document.

Dr Travers chaired discussions between teachers' unions and the Department of Education on the reform proposals.

Putting herself on a collision course with unions, Ms O'Sullivan said no one could "have a veto" on reforms that everyone else agreed were needed and overdue.

However, Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) President Gerry Quinn last night told the Sunday Independent that their members remained under instruction not to cooperate with the Government's reforms.

"There is no opposition to reform, and teachers have engaged in meaningful reform," he said.

Mr Quinn also said many schools could not cope with extra demand on resources to carry out assessment given the impact of austerity cuts since 2008.

In a joint statement issued after talks late on Friday night, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and the TUI said Dr Travers' proposals did not represent a comprehensive resolution, but rather only a basis for further negotiations.

Responding to that statement, the minister said that she "deeply regretted" their failure to accept what she described as a fair and reasonable compromise.

She said Dr Travers - a former president of St Patrick's Training College, Drumcondra - had requested that both parties would either accept or reject his proposals as a basis for agreement, not as a starting point for negotiation.

The minister also hit out at the unions for failing to suspend the threat of further industrial action.

The unions said they decided not to proceed with another strike at this time, but would keep industrial action "under review".

The dispute has already resulted in teachers staging two strikes, on January 22 and on December 3 last year .

Ms O'Sullivan said that both unions had failed to accept the compromise proposals without balloting their wider membership on a significantly different proposal was a matter of concern.

"I deeply regret the failure of the unions to accept what was a fair and reasonable compromise put forward by the independent chair," she said.

"Central to Dr Travers' proposal was a suspension of industrial action by both unions, a step they have failed to take.

"The failure to suspend industrial action raises the prospect of more unnecessary strike action.

"It also deprives teachers of the opportunity to receive training for a reformed and enhanced junior cycle."

The minister's officials are due to meet other education partners - students, parents' representatives and management bodies - all of whom are positive towards the Travers' proposals, to update them on her implementation plans tomorrow.

Sunday Independent

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