Ahead of next week’s planned one-day strike, second-level teaching unions have said they are willing to enter talks on the Junior Cycle — but only if their concerns about training and resource levels and the requirement to assess their own students are addressed.
Yesterday, Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan claimed that while she had shown a willingness to compromise on the issues in dispute, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (Asti) and the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) were “steadfastly failing to move”.
Up to 27,000 teachers who are members of the Asti and the TUI will strike on December 2 with a further day in January.
“I have moved a significant distance to address the legitimate concerns of education partners while still maintaining the integrity of Junior Cycle reform,” she said. Her proposal includes:
n60% of marks in the junior cycle to be allocated on the basis of an exam at the end of third-year set and marked by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) for all subjects;
nThe remaining 40% of marks to be allocated for school-based work which would be marked by the class teacher.
“I would urge the second-level unions to cancel the planned strike action and re-engage in meaningful talks on the basis of the framework I put forward. Negotiation will resolve this issue, but negotiation involves movement from both sides.”
In a joint statement, the unions said it was misleading for the minister to state that the unions had steadfastly failed to move.
TUI president Gerry Quinn said, despite the minister’s decision to change the original proposals, “the introduction of 40% school-based assessment would compromise the credibility and transparency of the examinations process”.
“A system of teachers assessing their own students for state exam purposes will significantly change the relationship between the teacher and student,” he said. “We agree with the minister that new modes of assessment such as practical work and portfolios are an important development. We support this. However, we want all state exam components to be externally assessed. In recent months, we have exhausted all available avenues in an effort to have our concerns addressed.”
Meanwhile, the minister yesterday announced the provision of €28m in funding for primary schools in 2014. Her department said the minor works grant will be focused on improving the physical infrastructure of schools and investment in equipment and furniture.
The grant is worth €6,425 for a 50-pupil school and more than €11,000 for a 300-pupil school.
The Catholic Primary School Management Association said the announcement would come as a relief to Boards of Management faced with the demands of ongoing maintenance of their school buildings.
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