Teachers' Conference: Unions to picket junior cycle training centres

Teachers who want to take part in training for new junior cycle programmes may be blocked by pickets as union leaders seek further changes to reform proposals.

Teachers' Conference: Unions to picket junior cycle training centres

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and Teachers’ Union of Ireland will announce details today of plans to picket regional education centres where training for teachers of English is due to resume nationally next week.

Lunchtime protests at 720 schools will also be held later this month rather than further strikes that might disrupt Junior or Leaving Certificate students, but work stoppages before June have not been ruled out.

Both unions have had a ban for the last year on members taking part in training or any other activities relating to the reforms.

TUI president Gerry Quinn said feedback so far suggests very few members are signed up for the department’s training, but he agreed the pickets would prevent them attending.

“Even if there are small numbers of English teachers nationally [planning to go], that’s the purpose of the picket. That directive [on training] is industrial action, it’s not top-down stuff, the mandate came from teachers,” he said.

Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan ordered the resumption of continuous professional development for teachers of English as she wants to proceed with final proposals that emerged in February. But unions are keeping industrial action in place as they want talks on resourcing schools for changes and having project work assessed externally.

Ms O’Sullivan will be at TUI’s congress in Wexford today, but was not invited to ASTI’s convention. She said unions could come back to the table by accepting the proposals and allowing members do the training.

“I don’t think teachers should be stopped from going to the CPD, the training that is available now for them,” she said in Ennis before the picket plans emerged.

She has said a recent online course was oversubscribed, but unions say it is unclear if those who took part were members or teachers of English.

ASTI president Philip Irwin told members their commitment at local level led to significant concessions already secured from the minister, a message also delivered by the TUI president. Both also stressed the importance of continued unity in their campaign.

Mr Quinn said he is confident that picketing the host education centres would be legal, as they would be the invited teachers’ designated workplaces for the day.

It is unclear who will place pickets, but it would probably have to be ASTI and TUI executive members as the training takes places during school hours.

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