Teaching unions and department on collision course over Junior Cert changes

Teachers say they still do not have the fine detail they need

The two teachers’ unions are quick to point out that bilateral meetings about the changes involving themselves and the department have taken place over the past two years.

The two teachers’ unions are quick to point out that bilateral meetings about the changes involving themselves and the department have taken place over the past two years.

Tue, Jan 21, 2014, 01:00

The teachers’ unions and the Department of Education and Skills are at loggerheads again with continuing dissatisfaction over implementation of junior cycle reform.

The spectre of non-co-operation and even more strident action remains a possibility as long as this disagreement remains.

It may seem a headstrong move by the unions for such strident talk after just one meeting of the national working group on reform, held last Friday, but it reflects the level of frustration felt by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland and the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland. Both unions are quick to point out that bilateral meetings involving themselves and the department have taken place over the past two years so the issues have been discussed. There can be no room for confusion over the positions being taken by the two sides. And yet confusion seems to reign, with the department saying it had moved significantly to address concerns raised by teachers, and the teachers asking yet again for the fine detail of how the changes brought by junior cycle reform are going to take place.

“For me, Friday produced more questions than answers,” said Gerard Craughwell, president of the TUI. “As we stand there is no chance whatsoever our members will engage with this. We needed to deal with the micro but we got the macro,” he said.

Similar concerns were expressed by the ASTI. The department moved to slow down implementation of the reform with only one subject, English, expected to come in the 2014-2015 academic year. But this was still too soon, the union said.

“We are looking for a deferral of the current timeframe,” a spokeswoman for ASTI said. “This deferral would be used to brief teachers in schools properly; to make sure the necessary professional development is taking place; to outline the resources that are going to be put in place to implement the framework,” she said.

“We believe there isn’t the fine detail. That could be delivered but we don’t see it yet. We have reform coming down the tracks that doesn’t have the confidence of teachers,” she added.

From the department’s perspective the issues are clear and questions readily addressed. It brought a document to the meeting last Friday which provided lots of new details, for example on in-school assessment. This would be limited to two school-based components and the final assessment would comprise a single paper of two hours or less.

Yet this was nowhere near where the teachers are coming from, which is firmly focused on how it will all play out in the classroom and how it will work for the students and for school management.

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