Debating motions on the Junior Certificate curriculum and the teaching of science, ASTI education officer Moira Leydon said: “There is the strongest evidence to say that the curriculum is being narrowed seriously.”
She claimed subjects such as German, physics and music were being dropped, while some schools now had fifth and sixth year engineering and physics students being taught in the same class. A recent survey had shown that 9% of schools have dropped physics, while a further 5% have dropped chemistry. In addition, half of schools surveyed were unhappy with their laboratories, and 90% wanted more lab prep time.
Michael O’Neill, from New Ross, said: “We have a duty to show up this Government, who talk about the smart economy, but who don’t fund it.”
Another speaker likened the teaching of fifth and sixth classes simultaneously as “a return to the Dark Ages.”
Delegates also debated attempts by the Department of Education to change the present format of the Junior Certificate and to move from independent assessment to teachers having to assess their own students.
ASTI president Joe Moran said work on changes to the curriculum and negotiations with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment should not get mixed up with industrial action, while other speakers said no changes to the curriculum could be co-operated with while union members are operating a work-to-rule.
A motion revisiting changes to the format of the Junior Certificate examination was carried, as was a motion welcoming a review of the examination on the basis of essential educational aims being achieved.
Delegates also demanded that any future changes to the syllabus only be carried out following consultation with relevant teachers and passed a motion that the ASTI negotiate with the department to return the pupil-teacher ratio to 18:1.
The conference also heard opposing views on pensions and how the issue is handled by the ASTI’s own pensions committee. Debating the report of the pension sub-committee, while addressing a motion asking convention to reject any Government attempts to break pension parity for retired members with salaries paid to serving teachers in similar posts, former ASTI president Pierce Purcell said he had grave reservations about the existence of a pensions committee and said it should be scrapped, while Sean Fallon from Dublin South, said he was “appalled” at that idea, and added: “If there was ever a need for a pensions committee, it is now.”
Another former ASTI president, Bernadine O’Sullivan, said it was vital that the committee continued.