ASTI issues warning over junior cycle training
Principals sign up thousands but union directive prohibits participation
The first classroom-based assessments are due to take place in schools next month for second-year English classes. Photograph: The Irish Times
The country’s biggest second-level teachers’ union has issued a fresh warning to members that they are prohibited from engaging in any form of training linked to the new junior cycle.
The circular comes as school principals sign thousands of teachers up for training linked to the new curriculum, despite the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) ban on co-operation with the changes.
Until now training has taken place with teachers in schools fully or partly staffed by Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) members, which signed up to the reforms last year.
These schools, run by Education and Training Boards, along with almost 100 community and comprehensives, account for about one-in-three secondary schools.
However, principals in dozens of voluntary secondary schools – staffed by ASTI members – have passed on details of their teachers for participation in junior cycle training to the Department of Education.
Dr Pádraig Kirk, director of junior cycle training support services, said just over 5,400 teachers from voluntary schools had been registered for training. This figure included teachers of English from voluntary schools who had registered prior to the ASTI embargo on co-operation with junior cycle training coming into effect.
The reformed junior cycle aims to put less emphasis on rote-learning and more on new approaches to learning.
The first classroom-based assessments are due to take place in schools next month for second-year English classes.
Students are being provided with a three-week window in which to research and present a three-minute oral communication task. This task will be assessed by the students’ own teacher.
By combining classroom assessments with a traditional written exam at the end of third year, the “junior cycle profile of achievement” aims to give parents a broader and clearer picture of their child’s progress .
In a letter circulated to principals and teachers this month, ASTI general secretary Kieran Christie said the union’s directive banned members from assessing their own students.
The union’s concerns include the lack of an externally assessed oral exam in modern languages and Irish.
“The effect of this directive is that members are prohibited from engaging in any event or function related to the planning of or preparation for the introduction of the junior cycle framework,” the letter states.
An ASTI union spokeswoman said there was no evidence to indicate that any teachers were breaching the ban.
Dr Quirk, meanwhile, said the new reforms would be rolled out to first-year science and business studies students this September, with Irish, art, and modern foreign languages set to be introduced from 2017.
Training commences with teachers one year in advance of the implementation of their particular subject in school.
A total of 11,363 teachers are registered for junior cycle training across all secondary schools.
“ I am pleased with the numbers of teachers that are now registered to engage in training in the next school year, but of course I look forward to a day when all teachers can engage,” Dr Quirk said,
“Junior cycle reform is probably the most fundamental reform of education at post-primary level since the foundation of the State.”