Teacher unions pressed on overhaul

New assessment methods for junior cert students are to be covered in training which Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan plans to take place next month despite an ongoing union ban on 27,000 teachers attending.

She called yesterday for the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) to reconsider their position and consult their members again on the overhaul of junior cycle teaching and assessment.

The leaders of the two unions have refused to conduct ballots on final proposals that emerged last month, which the minister said are significantly different to those on the table a year ago when their members decided on industrial action.

That action has led to two strike days since December, but also includes a directive under which members are not to take part in training or any other activities related to the junior cycle changes.

In a briefing for school managers, second-level students and parents’ groups, details were given teacher-training days planned to begin after Easter.

They will go over what was covered in training before industrial action began, but will also deal with how teachers can assess their students on English oral and written work.

Ms O’Sullivan said last month she would proceed with the training despite the union’s insistence that resources for implementing changes need to take place before they could consider the plan put forward by talks chairman Pauric Travers and suspend industrial action as he recommended.

Talks between the minister and school management bodies on the resources issue are to begin on April 14.

Under the Travers proposals, results of school-based assessment in second year and third year by students’ own teachers would be reported by their schools.

This was intended to deal with union opposition to teachers marking their students for state certification, with final written exams continuing to be marked by the State Examinations Commission.

Ms O’Sullivan said 1,200 teachers have accessed the Junior Cycle for Teachers training service website in three weeks, but the figure is not verified. She said an online planning seminar for English teachers on Wednesday night, with space for 100 teachers to take part, was oversubscribed.

“These are small steps, but clearly show the hunger that exists amongst teachers to engage in professional learning,” the minister said.

But the unions say the vast majority of members are observing the industrial action directive, with up to 6,000 people teaching English at second level.

“It would be wrong to assume all those participating in the online pilot are actually practising English teachers or union members, or both, or indeed teachers at all,” they told the Irish Examiner.

ASTI and TUI presidents Philip Irwin and Gerry Quinn said it is unacceptable that the department and the minister are proceeding with implementing changes without agreement of teachers or their unions.


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