Thursday 18 July 2019

An 'F' for the Coalition on Junior Cert reform

Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan
Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan


What a predictable outcome. In the face of opposition from the teachers' unions to the proposals to reform the Junior Cert, the Coalition caved in.

Harking back to the days of social partnership and keeping everyone happy, teachers' unions have had their demands largely acceded to.

They will now call off all industrial action after the Government dramatically watered down most of its plans for Junior Cert reform.

The much-vaunted proposals for teachers to assess their own students as part of the Junior Cert exam are effectively off the table.

Putting forward a compromise to the original draft of her predecessor, Ruairi Quinn, Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan wanted to introduce a 60:40 split in the marks between written exams in June and classroom assessment.

Under the substantially less significant new deal now on offer, teachers will still assess work completed in school - but it will not now count towards the pupil's final grade.

The results of this work will be communicated directly to parents - the same as any other non-State exam in the primary and post-primary cycle.

The new document, called 'Junior Cycle Reform: Joint Statement on Principles', is a far cry from the initial Government plans in October 2012.

The new forms of classroom-based assessment by teachers of their students may ultimately lead to further reforms down the line. Just don't hold your breath.

The dispute is over and so too is any Coalition desire to be taken seriously on Junior Cert reform.

As the public sector pay talks get under way, the message to the trade union movement is pretty simple: for the next 10 months, up until the General Election, just threaten industrial unrest and this Government's resolve will crumble.

The life lesson to our young people from the Coalition is also clear: in the face of adversity, just capitulate.

Reaping the benefits of our 'slow peace'

When WB Yeats wrote about a "terrible beauty" he was referring to a legacy of anguish and sorrow that somehow had led to an awakening, through suffering.

Prince Charles chose to quote the poet once more yesterday. He spoke of peace "dropping slow". Thankfully, the time of war has past. The bitter, painful harvest of conflict left deep hurt and Prince Charles spoke movingly, in an intensely personal way, about how his own world was rocked to its core when "the grandfather I never had" was taken - through the IRA's murder of Lord Mountbatten.

"We all have regrets," he noted. The visit of the royals has added to the foundations of friendship laid down by Queen Elizabeth in 2011. It can be deemed a major diplomatic success.

Thankfully, Mullaghmore was a scene of serenity and calm yesterday. But as Prince Charles pointed out, Ireland and England have endured a long history of suffering.

But, most importantly, as he also pointed out, we no longer need to be prisoners of our past, or the victims of a brutal history.

Being touched personally by the Troubles gave the prince an understanding and insight into the tribulations of others whose worlds were also torn apart.

Peace may have come dropping slow, but it has come. And that is surely something to cherish.

Irish Independent

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