Secondary teachers opt against escalating dispute with Quinn

Asti hopes to persuade other stakeholders to back campaign against changes to Junior Cycle

Annette Dolan (left), deputy general secretary; Colm Kelly,  assistant general secretary and John MacGabhann, general secretary TUI pictured at the TUI Conference at the Newpark Hotel in Kilkenny. Photograph:  Dylan Vaughan

Annette Dolan (left), deputy general secretary; Colm Kelly, assistant general secretary and John MacGabhann, general secretary TUI pictured at the TUI Conference at the Newpark Hotel in Kilkenny. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan

Fri, Apr 25, 2014, 00:29

Secondary teachers have decided against escalating their dispute with Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn over Junior Cycle reforms, opting instead to try to persuade parents to back their opposition to the plan.

A proposed motion that would have seen the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) order its members not to teach the new English curriculum in September was withdrawn by its central committee today.

Officials warned the motion would have amounted to a form of industrial action which members had already rejected at a meeting last February.

Speaking after the decision, ASTI president-elect Philip Irwin said a strike threat was still an option but the union would first seek to persuade other stakeholders to back its campaign against the plan.

Mr Irwin said there were aspects to the English syllabus that the union was “not in opposition to” but it remained firmly opposed to teachers assessing their own students for a planned new Junior Cycle certificate.

“The issue of strike action will be something we will consider again in the autumn depending on how things go.”

Teachers’ Union of Ireland delegates were warned on Wednesday by their union’s general secretary, John MacGabhann, that they could run the risk of being sacked by schools if they refused to implement the changes in September.

“Let’s not make sacrificial lambs of some of our teachers, where the first thing they are asked to do by the union is lose their job,” he told TUI annual conference in Kilkenny.

He was speaking during a motion - that was ultimately defeated - to ballot members against teaching the new syllabus.

The ASTI congress closed today with committee elections and a debate on school inspections. Delegates were divided on the merits of incidental inspections which have increased in frequency - from 92 at secondary level in 2011 to 342 in 2012.

A further 80 Whole School Evaluations (WSEs), which involve more detailed inspections, took place in 2012.

Supporting an ultimately defeated motion that would see a minimum notice period of one week for incidental inspections, Mark Walshe of the ASTI Fightback group said they were designed “to keep teachers in a constant state of fear and terror”.

He said they were “all about the tick-box approach” to education which fed into league tables and other performance-based initiatives modelled in England.

But retired science teacher Lily Cronin, Co Kerry, said teachers had nothing to fear from the so-called “drive-by inspections” and giving people advanced notice would only create “added stress”.