27,000 teachers protest over reform
TUI members have ‘no confidence’ in plan for new secondary school junior cycle
Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn speaking to media outside Leinster House yesterday in relation to protests by teachers over the new junior cycle. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Teachers protested against the new junior cycle plans yesterday as the Minister for Education defended the programme and rejected claims that the reforms were moving too fast.
Staff from up to 750 schools across the country voiced their opposition to the new Junior Cycle Student Award programme they feel would “downgrade” secondary-level education.
The demonstration of up to 27,000 teachers was organised by the Teacher’s Union of Ireland (TUI) and ASTI.
The Irish Times spoke to TUI president Gerard Craughwell during the protest at Newpark Comprehensive School in Blackrock. He said teachers were angry at Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn’s failure to listen to their concerns.
“This is happening today because of the levels of frustration teachers are feeling,” he said.
“We have no confidence in the Minister’s plan. What scares the living hell out of all of us is this is due to start in September. I think this is a dangerous experiment with children’s lives and children’s futures.”
Mr Craughwell said teachers wanted the Government to take another year to examine the plan and sit down for talks.
“It’s about the education system we cherish – we built it and we’ll be damned if we let someone destroy it.
“Academics are complaining about our own system being dumbed down already and this will make things worse. It’s a grand experiment that has already failed in the UK.”
ASTI president Sally Maguire said teachers believed the proposals posed serious threats to education standards.
“The key issue here is the assessment: there is no transparency. And how will it be implemented? Will it be the same in Wexford as it is Galway?”
Mr Quinn has defended the pace of the reforms and rejected claims they would damage the system and affect the performance of pupils. Speaking outside Leinster House yesterday, he said he had slowed down the process to allow full consultation, training and preparation.
“What was supposed to be completed by June 2020, is now going to be stretched out to June 2022,” he said.
Mr Quinn said there was some flexibility, but the tradition of having a State examination at the end of third year would no longer happen.
“I want to hear from the teachers. They can’t just say we don’t like this and we don’t want to do it. That ship has left the harbour,” he said.
Both unions are holding a ballot from their members up to and including strike. The results will be announced on March 26th.