New Junior Cert to deepen social inequality, claim teachers

Parents will be alarmed over lack of State certificate for exam, say Asti delegates

Secondary school teachers have hit out at Junior Cert reform plans which they say will create competition between schools and between different subject teachers within schools. Photograph: Joe St Leger/The Irish Times

Secondary school teachers have hit out at Junior Cert reform plans which they say will create competition between schools and between different subject teachers within schools. Photograph: Joe St Leger/The Irish Times

Tue, Apr 2, 2013, 12:50

The new Junior Cert will pit school against school and deepen social inequalities in education, teachers say.

Secondary school teachers have hit out at Junior Cert reform plans which they say will create competition between schools and between different subject teachers within schools.

Delegates at the Asti conference in Wexford this week have said parents are unaware of the changes coming down the track and would be “amazed and alarmed” when they discover that their children will no longer be awarded a State certificate for the Junior Cert and will face their first State examination at the age of 17 or 18.

A motion demanding that the Minister shelve the implementation of the new Junior Cycle and engage in “real and meaningful” dialogue with teachers was passed unanimously yesterday.

Phase 1 of the new Junior Cycle is due to start in schools in 2014. There will only be three core subjects: English, Irish and maths. Other subjects will be offered in the form of short courses and schools will have considerable autonomy in choosing and delivering them.

Students who complete the Junior Cert will get a school certificate instead of a State certificate.

In a major survey of teacher attitudes commissioned by Asti last month, respondents expressed concern that the value of certification would depend on public and employer perception of the awarding school.

Yesterday’s delegates were told affluent schools would offer better short courses than schools in socio-economically disadvantaged areas, pitting school against school.

“Will a short course in photography bear any resemblance in an inner city school to that offered in the leafy suburbs?” asked delegate Kiaran Christie. “With this new plan we are ensuring that those with the most financial resources will extract the most from the education system.”

Delegate Carmel Henehan suggested short courses in flying lessons might be offered in affluent areas. “What will those is disadvantaged areas be offered by comparison?” she asked.

Delegate Brid Kennedy from Clare asked who would deliver specialised short courses in subjects beyond teachers’ remit. “These teachers will possibly be hired and paid privately by schools, leaving teachers redundant,” she said.

Kevin Brogan from Drogheda called for the union to conduct an awareness campaign to alert parents to the implications of the Junior Cycle reform plan.

“Parents will be amazed and alarmed that their children will not have a national exam until they are 17 or 18 years of age, and a certificate that’s not worth the paper it’s written on,” he said.

Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn will address Asti delegates this evening.