Sunday 25 March 2018

Junior Cert row escalates with fresh strike vote

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

SECONDARY teachers are hardening their stance against Junior Certificate reform with plans for a strike ballot in the autumn.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) has decided to ask members to be prepared to go a step further in their opposition to the controversial overhaul and support work stoppages, if necessary. The decision was taken by the ASTI's 180-member central executive committee (CEC).

At the core of union opposition is the plan to replace traditional exams with a Junior Cycle Student Award (JCSA).

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn and education experts say that getting rid of the single set of exams at the end of third year is the only way of enhancing the learning experience for 12-14 year olds.

Support for a strike would bring the ASTI into line with the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) whose members have voted in favour of 'downing tools'.

So, in that sense, it does not represent a major escalation of the industrial action already facing many schools if the dispute over Junior Cycle reforms is not resolved.

However, a September strike ballot would provide a new focus for teachers unhappy over proposed changes as the new school year begins.

Both second-level unions balloted in March on a range of protest actions designed to stymie the smooth roll-out of the reforms.

When teachers voted in March, the TUI ballot papers included the possible use of strike action but the ASTI ballots did not. However, the follow-up strike ballot was always expected.


Union directives already in place as a result of the March ballots include a ban on any further teacher training in preparation for the changes, and non-co-operation with optional new short courses such as Chinese and computer coding.

Teachers have agreed to co-operate with a new Junior Cycle English syllabus for first years in September after being advised that the minister has the right to set the curriculum.

However, while they will teach it, their current position is that they will not assess students.

Irish Independent

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