The largest secondary teachers’ union, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (Asti), decided last night to continue its current industrial action against junior cycle reforms.
The decision was announced after the union’s national executive met for more than four hours in Dublin to discuss why members rejected the junior certificate reform plan.
But the Minister for Education, Jan O’Sullivan said earlier in the day that plans to reform the junior cycle were “not in tatters” following Thursday’s ballot result by the ASTI members.
Speaking in Limerick yesterday at the launch of a new five-year strategic plan for the University of Limerick, Ms O’Sullivan said she hoped the Asti would find a way to agreeing to implement the changes.
She said it was a reform that was absolutely necessary for the young people of Ireland and one that had been talked about for decades and had come about after very detailed negotiations.
“We have had very detailed negotiations and I hope that the Asti will find a way of agreeing to implement this. It has already started for students of English in our schools and the students have to be central to all of this,” she said.
The education minister rejected “absolutely” that the planned reforms were now in the bin.
Union members voted by 55% to 45% to reject the proposals, but just 38% of the Asti’s 18,000 members had returned ballot papers by Wednesday’s deadline.
ASTI president, Máire Ní Chiarba, said teachers understood how best to improve teaching and learning.
“Their concerns are very real and we intend to ensure they are addressed,” Ms Ní Chiarba said last night.
She said the union would be engaging “intensively” with its members on the issues of most concern to them.
The union has reissued its directive to members not to co-operate with the junior cycle.
Members have been told not to attend continuing professional development and not to engage with any aspect of school-based assessment.
Asti general secretary, Pat King, said there was no question of strike action at this stage.
“If things develop, in a very negative fashion, that may come onto the agenda,” he said on RTÉ television last night.
Mr King said they wanted to meet with members to find out exactly what were the issues that provoked teachers to vote no.“We will bring those back, hopefully, to the table and get them resolved.”
The National Parents’ Council Post Primary said it was very disappointed that the Asti had decided to continue its industrial action.
The council’s spokesperson, Don Myers, said he hoped that members of Asti would start thinking about the students.
There was an agreement from the unions on the reforms back in May and the council hoped the ballot would have followed through on it. “All is not lost yet. I hope they will reconvene as early as possible, deal with this matter and move on,” said Mr Myers.
A spokesperson for the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) said last night that any arising issues from the Asti’s decision would be addressed by its executive committee in the near future.
TUI members voted in favour of acceptance of the negotiated document by a margin of 69% to 31% on a turnout of 60%.
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