The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) decided just this summer to instruct its members to end the industrial action which saw them refuse to take part in continuous professional development (CPD) associated with the reforms.
The smaller Teachers’ Union of Ireland membership in second-level schools signed up to the reforms in September 2015 after some concessions on the original plans had been negotiated with the Department of Education.
The department’s 2016 accounts show that junior cycle reform was one of the areas of CPD where costs were lower than expected. There were other savings due to reduced uptake on some support schemes and lower-than-expected participation in some courses, for which substitutes would normally be paid to facilitate teacher absences from schools.
Other teacher education categories like the TL21 (Teaching and Learning for the 21st Century) programme, Active School Awards, and Arts Charter project also saw less spent than had been allowed for.
The €22.6m spent on teacher education last year was €200,000 less than in 2015, but €5.3m or nearly one fifth short of the €27.9m set aside within the 2016 budget.
Despite last year’s under-spend, the same figure of €27.9m was provided under the department’s teacher education 2017 budget, although it was uncertain when the allocation was finalised late last year if the ASTI industrial action would continue or for how long.
In June, a special convention of ASTI branch delegates from around the country decided to suspend the industrial action on junior cycle reform. As a result, they are now co-operating with all aspects of the revised junior cycle, including new methods of assessing students in addition to the final Junior Certificate exams.
Some of the related training has already begun, as ASTI members who teach English catch up with CPD provided over the last two years to TUI counterparts. Further whole-school courses on the junior cycle framework are being rolled out this term, with further training to be provided for those who teach business studies and science to junior cycle students.
English was the first subject in which the reforms have been rolled out, and all students who did the Junior Certificate this summer were assessed differently to previous years.
Meanwhile, ASTI’s 18,000 members are balloting on the latest public service pay deal, with a recommendation from its 180-member central executive council not to accept it.
The deal has already been rejected by the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) and Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) because it did not commit to restoring pay equality for post-2011 entrants to the profession in its four-year timeframe.
But since the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) public services committee decided in an aggregate vote of unions to accept the deal last month, the INTO and TUI executives have decided to take part in talks around other measures to address pay of newer entrants to the public service.