Second-level teacher unions pressed to discuss junior reforms

Second-level teacher union leaders meet this morning under mounting pressure to discuss revised junior cycle reform plans instead of considering school strikes.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and Teachers’ Union of Ireland pulled out of talks with the Department of Education on Tuesday, even after an offer to meet most of their demands on certification and assessment.

National Parents’ Council-Post Primary president Don Myers said that the proposals are hugely different from those that were on the table when teacher unions voted for industrial action, up to strikes, on the issue.

“There’s no doubt the industrial action was based on proposals on the table before these talks, and I was disappointed that the unions were talking about strike action so soon after coming out of the talks,” he said.

The same point was made by Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan after the talks broke down, claiming that her proposals deserve to be put to the 27,000 second-level teachers.

However, union negotiators remained completely opposed to any assessment of students by their own teachers, and will now consult their executives in a joint ASTI-TUI meeting in Athlone this morning.

“We accept and acknowledge there has been significant moves but school-based assessment is what our members object to, which we have established from various consultations on this over the last two years,” said ASTI spokesperson.

The pressure on unions is growing, however, as a school management body added its voice to those of parents, principals, students and opposition parties urging them to consider the latest plans. Education and Training Boards Ireland, whose members manage a third of second-level schools, said the compromise proposals are fair and workable.

“We respectfully request that the unions now re-engage with the department and give their full support to implementing the much-needed reform of the junior cycle, which we feel now more considerably respects the concerns of the teachers,” said ETBI general secretary Michael Moriarty.

Otherwise, the plan is almost exactly as proposed to Ms O’Sullivan’s predecessor, Ruairi Quinn, three years ago.

He went much further in October 2012 by removing any State certification and insisting that all elements eventually be marked by students’ own teachers, instead of only the coursework worth 40% in second year and third year, which had been recommended by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to him.


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