Teachers stage protest over junior cycle plans

Unions say the Government is playing a ‘dangerous experiment with childrens’ futures’

  Teacher’s Union of Ireland (TUI) president Gerard Craughwell said teachers were “angry” at the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn’s failure to listen to their concerns about the Junior Cycle Student Award programme.

Teacher’s Union of Ireland (TUI) president Gerard Craughwell said teachers were “angry” at the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn’s failure to listen to their concerns about the Junior Cycle Student Award programme.

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 18:59

Teachers protesting outside schools today say they are “angry and frustrated” with the Government’s failure to heed their concerns about the new junior cycle plans.

Staff from up to 750 schools across the country picked up placards to voice their opposition to the new Junior Cycle Student Award programme they feel would “downgrade” secondary level education.

The Irish Times spoke to the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) president Sally Maguire during the protest at the gates of Newpark Comprehensive School in Blackrock.

Ms Maguire said teachers believed the proposals posed serious threats to education standards.

“The key issue here is the assessment- there is no transparency and how will it be implemented. Will it be the same in Wexford as it is Galway?”

Ms Maguire said teachers were in agreement the current Junior Certificate programme needed to be changed. However, she said more discussions on the details needed to be held between the Minister and teachers.

The demonstration of up to 27,000 teachers was organised by ASTI and Teacher’s Union of Ireland.

TUI president Gerard Craughwell said there was a fear the education system was being “dumbed down”.

“This is happening today because the levels of frustration teachers are feeling,” he said.

“We’re stumbling into this with no clear plan.

“We have no confidence in the Minister’s plan. What scares the living hell out of all of us is this is due to start in September.

“I think this is a dangerous experiment with childrens’ lives and childrens’ futures,” he said.

Mr Craughwell said it was a worry the programme would encourage an “education divide”.

“A small country school will not have access to the different equipment and facilities needed for this programme that a big urban school would have,” he said.

“It’s a grand experiment that has already failed in the UK,”

“Are our children to be part of the cost saving measures in this country?”

English and Irish teacher John McCarthy said there needed to be a standardisation of the assessment and legal guidelines for the new tasks.

“You could be sued,” he said

“We were not consulted or advised the way we should have been for such a radical change.

“We’ll become the students’ judge as opposed to a students’ advocate.”

Irish teacher Gearóidín O’Dwyer said the proposal would change relationships between students and teachers.

“There’s always a level of subjectivity when you know the students,” she said.

“Teachers are not anti-change. All teachers hate industrial action. However we need a new programme that doesn’t risk the future of our children’s education. “

Both unions are holding a ballot from their members up to and including strike. The results will be announced on March 26th.

A public information meeting hosted by the unions will be held at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Galway City.