ASTI schools to lose out on hundreds of extra teachers

Voluntary secondary schools will lose teachers, management and tuition time

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland’s rejection of settlement proposals means 500 voluntary secondary schools are in danger of being left behind by other post-primary schools.  Photograph: Peter Thursfield

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland’s rejection of settlement proposals means 500 voluntary secondary schools are in danger of being left behind by other post-primary schools. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

 

It may not be grabbing the kind of headlines which school closures had last autumn, but the consequences are no less serious.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland’s rejection of recent settlement proposals means the country’s 500 voluntary secondary schools are now in real danger of being left behind by other post-primary schools.

Voluntary secondary schools – where the ASTI is the dominant union – are due to miss out on hundreds of additional teaching posts from next autumn.

This means these schools will have higher pupil/teacher ratios compared to most community and comprehensives or post-primary schools run by Education and Training Boards (ETBs).

Voluntary secondary schools will also lose out on their share of up to 1,000 middle-management posts – crucial for planning and administration – due to be restored across the education sector. Then there are the 40,000 or so students taking part in the new junior cycle this year, which is replacing the Junior Cert.

The reforms – a decade in the making – are aimed at boosting children’s engagement, providing more regular assessments and promoting a much broader range of skills. But the ASTI has banned its members from taking part in assessments or training linked to the new curriculum on the grounds of “protecting standards” in education.

As a result, teachers in voluntary secondary schools are delivering the curriculum in the classroom – without any training.

Classroom-based assessments

Another consequence is that students in voluntary secondary schools are at risk of losing up to 10 per cent in their junior cycle English exam this summer due the union’s refusal to engage in classroom-based assessments.

The same will be true of other junior cycle subjects due to be fully rolled out next year unless the dispute is resolved.

This is causing real stress to students and parents – and also to a great many decent teachers who want to do everything possible to help their students.

A further directive not to co-operate with oral exams at junior cycle is causing high levels of anxiety for students, who feel they are at a disadvantage to other schools.

Tuition time is now also at much greater risk at voluntary secondary schools. The ASTI’s withdrawal from the Croke Park hours means schools have lost much of their ability to hold parent-teacher meetings outside school hours.

Voluntary secondary schools now face the prospect of closing in order to host them, or cancelling them and depriving parents of important feedback on their children’s progress.

Some ASTI members insist these actions are the result of a “bullying” Department of Education intent on punishing members for refusing to sign up to pay deals and education reform.

They would have a strong point if the union was involved in constructive solutions to these issues. Instead, the union has been bent on conflict rather than compromise – and students are set to be caught up in the fallout.