Teacher training for Junior Cycle plan ‘totally inadequate’, claims union
ASTI and TUI meetings open today amid concerns over education reforms
Pat King, ASTI general secretary, with former minister for education Mary Hanifin: the TUI, which along with the ASTI has voted to oppose the Junior Cycle reforms, is also opening its annual congress today. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times
English teachers – the first group of teachers due to work with the new Junior Cycle framework – have expressed only limited confidence in the model after undergoing introductory training.
A survey by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) found that 97 per cent of English teachers had attended an in-service training day for the English specification, due to be introduced in September.
However, only 4 per cent said their confidence to teach the specification had greatly increased. Some 49 per cent said it had somewhat increased while 47 per cent said it had not increased.
In addition to an introductory training day on the new curriculum, teachers are due to receive a minimum of three days of continuing professional development under a plan announced earlier this year by the Department of Education. This is due to cover the contentious issue of how teachers will grade Junior Cycle students in their own schools.
There is also an allowance for one day of whole-school, in-service training per school per year until the new Junior Cycle is fully introduced.
All such further training has stalled, however, due to the decision by the ASTI and Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) to withdraw co-operation from the reforms.
Almost a third of respondents to the ASTI survey said the information on the English specification was clearly presented, half said “to some degree” it was, while only 15 per cent said it wasn’t. Only 18 per cent, however, felt they had been given enough time to cover the course.
The reform creates three strands of learning – oral competency, reading and writing – marking a shift from the traditional way of teaching English through a body of literature and poetry.
ASTI general secretary Pat King said the survey showed that the allocation to training to date had been “totally inadequate”.
There are a number of motions tabled for the ASTI conference starting today opposing the Junior Cycle reforms, and calling on the union to instruct its members not to assess their own pupils for the planned new school award. Other motions seek to tackle the bitter pay cuts of recent years, with one calling for the “the immediate restoration of a single common basic salary scale for all teachers”.
Another says the ASTI, in conjunction with other public service unions, should seek the immediate repeal of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act (2013), under which the pay of public servants not covered by the Haddington Road agreement was cut last year.
Under the Act, teachers on salaries of €65,000 or greater had a 5.5 per cent pay cut applied to their salary from July 1st last but those earning less were unaffected.
The TUI, which along with the ASTI has voted to oppose the Junior Cycle reforms, is also opening its annual congress today.
Among its members, there are concerns being expressed about plans to merge Institutes of Technology into Technological Universities.
Half of TUI lecturers polled on the issue in advance saying said they would rather their institute remained standalone.
Members expressed concerns about the implications of the mergers on their employment conditions, but also on access to education in the regions.
“The mission of the sector is distinct, with a strong focus on meeting the local and regional needs of industry, enterprise and communities. The move towards Technological University could lead to a dramatic reduction in regional provision of programmes and a corresponding inequity in respect of access to higher education,” said TUI general secretary John Mac Gabhann.