Teachers spoke in support of ongoing opposition to elements of junior cycle reforms at conferences in Kerry and Wexford yesterday.
While the leaders of the unions have been accused by Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan of not giving members a chance to voice their views on the latest proposals, they backed ongoing industrial action which is now entering its second year.
At the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) convention in Killarney, a motion was passed that underpinned union policy on refusing to co-operate with any school-based assessment for State certification.
While this issue in the context of junior cycle reform has effectively been conceded in talks with the Department of Education since motions had to be submitted before Christmas, delegates nonetheless backed the union's joint campaign of opposition to outstanding reforms that the minister still wants to introduce.
Proposing the Cork South Paddy Mulcahy branch motion, John Byrne said there was considerable public support and a mandate for industrial action taken, which included two strikes in December and January. He said now is the time to remain steadfast and resist "strong-arm tactics" by the minister and any attempts to bulldoze the programme through.
Another Cork South delegate, Mick Evans, said teachers had already given the minister 85% of what she had been looking for and all they wanted to do was look at the assessment side of the programme. He claimed nothing had been thought out and described the debate as a watershed for education in Ireland.
‘’We have nobody taking a long-term view of education in this country. It’s all ad-hoc decision-making,’’ said Mr Evans, adding he had seen 23 ministers for education in his time.
Anne Piggott, also Cork South, said parents were definitely supporting teachers in the junior cycle dispute, as was evident when the union took industrial action.
At TUI's congress in Wexford, Galway city delegate and teahcder of English, Jean Beswick said she got very little relevant information in the one day of continuous professional development she had attended before attendance at such training was banned by the two unions last April. She said this was reflected in a survey last September, in which other English teachers wholeheartedly expressed dissatisfaction with the training.
"We have been given very little on asssessment of junior cycle...and still have no indication of what we will be assessing in second-year. One essential is missing: without success criteria in place, we can’t effectively teach this course," she said.
"We’re doing a disservice to our young people, this current cohort of second years are receiving second rate education," Ms Beswick said.
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