Nationwide lunchtime demonstration by teachers today

Protests outside schools add to pressure over introduction of new junior cycle reform

Union presidents Sally Maguire (above) of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland and Gerard Craughwell of the Teachers Union of Ireland will lead the national lunchtime protests from Newpark Comprehensive School in Blackrock, Co Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Union presidents Sally Maguire (above) of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland and Gerard Craughwell of the Teachers Union of Ireland will lead the national lunchtime protests from Newpark Comprehensive School in Blackrock, Co Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 01:00


With nationwide demonstrations

today, teachers’ unions and the Department of Education are both increasing the pressure over the introduction of junior cycle reform.

The unions are staging a lunchtime protest outside schools, demonstrating against the changes sought by the department, including continual assessment of students by teachers.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, in a counter-move, has issued a formal departmental circular to principals and boards of management setting out how and when the junior cycle changes must be introduced this autumn.

“We want to send a clear signal to parents, students, teachers and the education partners that we are proceeding with junior cycle reform because it is the right thing to do for the students,” a department spokeswoman said yesterday.

“It is a signal from the Minister and the department we are determined to proceed on the reform of the junior cycle from September.”

Lunchtime protest
Union presidents Sally Maguire of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) and Gerard Craughwell of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) will lead the national lunchtime protests from Newpark Comprehensive School in Blackrock, Co Dublin.

The protest will involve a short rally, with similar demonstrations outside second-level schools across the State.

Regular school business will not be disrupted by the action and normal supervision arrangements will remain in place, the unions said.

The contents of the circular were up for discussion last January 17th, when education partners including unions, the department, principals and school boards held a working group meeting.

The goal was to avoid a clash over the planned junior cycle reforms, but it failed to defuse the situation.

Instead the TUI decided to ballot its members on non- co-operation with the department’s reform proposals.

Ballot papers will be issued today, with the ballot closing on March 26th.

“We acknowledge the publication of this circular letter but it changes nothing as far as we are concerned.

“Regrettably it fails to address the issue of resources required to implement the programme,” said Mr Craughwell.


Damage
The unions believe the reforms could cause lasting damage to the education system.

“We believe that student achievement in the new junior cycle must be externally assessed and nationally certified.”

The ASTI was equally dismissive of the circular.

“There is nothing new in the circular that wasn’t said on January 17th,” a spokeswoman said.

Special training had been planned for teachers, but this amounted to only one day of training up to next September.

The ASTI also had a problem with plans to bring in continual assessment to replace a terminal examination.

“The English teachers simply don’t know what they are supposed to be doing on continual assessment,” she said.

“It [the circular] doesn’t address the key issues for teachers, so nothing has changed,” the ASTI spokeswoman added.