Thursday 23 November 2017

Nine out of 10 teachers say schools can't cope with Junior Cert change

Sally Maguire, president of the ASTI. Photo: Damien Eagers
Sally Maguire, president of the ASTI. Photo: Damien Eagers

Katherine Donnelly, Education Editor

Teachers say six years of cutbacks have left schools unable to implement the changes to the Junior Certificate from September.

Almost nine in 10, or 89pc of secondary teachers say their school is not ready to implement the proposals, according to a survey by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI).

The majority of ASTI members surveyed, 77pc, want the reforms deferred for one year to give schools time to plan.

However, ASTI president Sally Maguire said that even if the reforms were deferred, they would maintain their opposition to the plan for teachers to assess their own students.

ASTI general secretary Pat King said the cuts imposed on schools in six years of austerity had left them experiencing system overload.

On the one hand, schools have lost teachers, with staffing levels down by 427 to 25,374 between 2009 to 2013, while on other hand, pupil numbers have risen by 21,535 to 362,847.

He said schools had also taken on about 20 initiatives and reforms around student learning and well-being, all of which added to the administrative workloads.

According to the survey, by Millward Brown, 81pc of teachers say their work demands have increased a lot in the last five years and 51pc say their work demands are very heavy.

The extra demands are eating into their time, with 69pc "frustrated" that they could not spend time with individual students, up from 42pc in 2009, and 66pc say they cannot engage in new approaches in the classroom.

The survey asked teachers about morale and found that only 44pc reported good to high levels of job satisfaction compared with 77pc five years ago

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn insists the changes to the junior cycle will start in September, when a new syllabus for English, the first subject to undergo remodelling, is rolled out for first-years.

The Millward Brown findings come ahead of the annual teacher conferences next week, where, for second-level unions, Junior Cert reform will dominate the agenda.

The ASTI and the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) are engaged in industrial action and have banned co-operation with certain activities related to the proposals for change.

Key to the change is the replacement of the traditional Junior Cert exams with a system of teachers assessing their own students, for a school-based Junior Cycle Student Award (JCSA).

The aim is to switch the focus from a single set of terminal exams, which are blamed for encouraging teaching to test, to more interactive learning.

The new approach will be phased in over eight years with different revised subjects gradually introduced.

Irish Independent

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