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Last-ditch talks in bid to prevent teachers' strike

SECONDARY school teachers and the Minister for Education are to meet next week as a last-ditch attempt to rule out strike action over the new Junior Cert curriculum.

Students and parents could be facing a winter of discontent in schools around the country if the concerns of teachers aren't met.

On Wednesday, union reps will meet with the new Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan to discuss the changes to the Junior Cert that have started to roll out this week.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) has warned that they want a solution to their concerns about in-school assessment which is the main issue teachers have with the new junior cycle.

Teachers fear that the new approach is not fair, balanced or objective and are calling for independent marking.

Having them mark their own students' work will benefit no-one, according to the union.

"Our belief is that assessment should be objective, fair, and anonymous and with the proposals that are on the table now that won't be the case," the secondary general Pat King told the Herald yesterday.

If the minister can't offer a compromise the ASTI will recommend a 'yes' vote to strike action at the end of September, he warned.

The ASTI represents around 17,000 second-level teachers around the country.


A result of the ballot will be available in early October and teachers will then decide what type of action to take.

"What we are saying now is that if the Minister is going ahead we have to do something more dramatic," Mr King told the Herald. "The train is leaving the station this week but there is still time for us to reach an agreement."

Meanwhile, the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) has already decided to take industrial action "up to and including strike action" if the assessment isn't reviewed, a spokesperson said.

Next week's last ditch attempt to avoid further action will see these concerns addressed along with worries that students will be at a disadvantage for the Leaving Cert.

English is the first subject to be changed this year with other subjects to follow suit in an overhaul announced by former minister Ruairi Quinn two years ago.

Teachers are already taking action to show their unhappiness with the marking system.

Two upcoming days are scheduled for teacher training, but teachers won't attend.

"The Minister is looking forward to meeting with the two unions and fully engaging with them to address their concerns," a spokesperson for the Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan said.