Bodies representing school boards and principals believe the junior cycle reform offer to unions should be enough for them to call off strikes that threaten to close 730 schools from December 2.
As news of the planned Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) action emerged at lunchtime, there was disappointment among other education partners. They said Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan had done enough to allay concerns of teachers and about many elements of the proposals forward over two years ago.
“We don’t want any disruption to our schools and we see enough in the minister’s offer to allow this to be carried out. In particular, restoring a State certificate goes a long way to addressing concerns about possible differences in standards of assessment between schools,” said Ferdia Kelly, general secretary of the Joint Managerial Body that represents 380 secondary schools.
However, unions do not believe the minister has gone far enough, saying they cannot accept any proposals which still require them to mark their own students for coursework, worth 40% of each subject’s marks in second and third year.
“The minister has said she’ll talk further based on the idea that we accept her proposals, but the proposals don’t go far enough for us. We will certainly be open to talks but we’d need further movement,” said ASTI president Philip Irwin.
The minister told unions she was willing to keep a new junior cycle award certified by the State Examinations Commission, which would also be responsible for marking the final written exams in all subjects, two elements of the current system proposed for abolition in ex-minister Ruairi Quinn’s original 2012 plans.
The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals said that it was disappointing that students would lose out, and the envisaged reforms would only enhance high public satisfaction in our education system.
“School leaders will again be placed in the position where their ability to meet the needs of their students is compromised by a union decision,” said NAPD director Clive Byrne.
In New York, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he regretted the unions’ decision to strike and he hoped talks could resume after what were “quite a lot of concessions” by Ms O’Sullivan.
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