Thursday 22 February 2018

No resolution in sight as teachers step up action

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

INDUSTRIAL action by teachers opposing key Junior Cycle reforms enters its second day today with no sign of a resolution.

As Education Minister Ruairi Quinn insisted that there was no going back on his decision to abolish the state exam, a union leader said state certification must remain.

Unions are opposed to the move to replace the traditional, independently-assessed exams with a system of teachers grading their own students for a new Junior Cycle Student Award (JCSA), given by schools.

From yesterday, teachers have been refusing to co-operate with activities linked to the change, although training for English – the first subject to be rolled out under the new regime – has been completed.

They say that the proposed new assessment arrangements will put them under pressure from parents to award favourable grades and that the loss of an independently marked state exam will be bad for education.

Mr Quinn said that he understood teachers' "very real" concerns about assessment, but he believed that "we can move to a point where we can address those issues." He added: "The way in which assessment is done is certainly open for discussion but we are not going to maintain the state exam."

He said the focus on one-off, terminal exams, meant that since St Patrick's Day, Junior Cert students "have stopped learning" and were merely "remembering and revising and preparing for questions that are anticipated to come up".

But Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) general secretary John MacGabhann responded: "We need state certification and external assessment.

"We believe state certification is necessary to maintain consistent standards; we believe children and parents deserve no less."

He said that unless there was a significant change in approach by the minister, the issue would not easily be resolved.

Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) general secretary Pat King said it was time for the minister to listen to what teachers were saying.

Changes to the Junior Cycle are due to be phased in over an eight-year period, starting in September with English for first years.

As part of their industrial action, teachers say they won't assess students of English when the time comes in 2016, but they will teach the new syllabus in September.

However, the industrial action will impact on the development of new "short courses", such as computer coding, that schools have the option of introducing in September.

As well as halting any further preparatory work on the courses, the unions say that teachers will not deliver them in September if the dispute is not resolved.

Irish Independent

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