Teacher union leader open to reballot on reform plans

Maire G Ní Chiarba, ASTI vicepresident, and Declan Glynn,assistant general secretary, TUI, protesting on Thursday.Picture: Denis Minihane

A leading teacher union official says he would have no problem running another ballot of members on Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan’s revised junior cycle reform plans.

Earlier this week, Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) president Philip Irwin said there was no need to reballot members on plans tabled by the minister in November.

Teachers’ Union of Ireland assistant General Secretary Declan Glynn told the Irish Examiner a further vote is not feared by unions, but would still result in support for strike action on student assessment.

A second one-day strike forced the closure of the country’s 720 second-level schools two days ago and a third could be called by the unions, who have agreed to meet the minister again next week.

The amount of assessment Ms O’Sullivan wants to be done by students’ own teachers is significantly less than what her predecessor, Ruairi Quinn, tried to push through against union opposition for the previous two years.

Instead of requiring teachers in schools to mark all three pieces of work in a reformed Junior Certificate, Ms O’Sullivan agreed that the State Examinations Commission would continue correcting final written exams.

But she still wants teachers assessing two pieces of coursework by their own students, worth up to 40% of marks in each subject.

When both unions were balloted on industrial action on the issue last year, Mr Quinn’s 100% school-based assessment model was still on the table. National Parents’ Council-Post Primary president Don Myers urged the unions this week to ballot members on what is now proposed, but Mr Irwin said there could be no half-measures and teachers are opposed to any level of in-school assessment for a State exam.

On a picket line on Thursday, Mr Glynn said the previous ballots were on the general principle of marking their own students. But, he said, there would be no problem with holding another vote.

“We have no fear of conducting another ballot among our members on that issue, and I’m 100% confident that the result would be precisely the same,” he told the Irish Examiner.

“The minister’s movement is something of a fallacy. If 40% of the exam continues to be marked on an unobjective basis, then the problem persists.”

The unions and the minister have agreed to talks again next Thursday, chaired by Pauric Travers who oversaw previous talks in November, and also 10 days ago.

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