ASTI teachers defy own ban on assessing their students
Increased uptake in optional Irish oral raises questions for union members
The difficulties for the ASTI in securing compliance with directives has been compounded in recent weeks by the decision of a significant number of non-union or former ASTI teachers in voluntary secondary schools to transfer to membership of the TUI. File photograph: Getty Images
Junior Cert results issued this morning indicate that a significant number of members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) are defying a prohibition by their union on engaging in assessing their own students in oral Irish.
A total of 20,220 students, or 38 per cent of candidates studying Irish this year, took the optional oral component in 2016 compared to 16,529 in 2015. These were spread across 357 schools, representing almost half of all second level schools.
There are within the Irish education system 360 schools either managed by Education Training Boards (ETB) or falling under the Communality and Comprehensive (C&C) bracket.
Collective bargaining within these schools falls to the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI), which has no objection to teachers assessing their own students for oral components of languages. The state’s other 375 post-primary schools, known as voluntary secondary schools, fall within the ambit of the ASTI.
A spokesperson for the State Examinations Commission told The Irish Times it was “aware that the optional Irish orals are sat across all three sectors” – ETB, C&C and voluntary.
At a meeting last June, the ASTI standing committee stepped up its campaign against self-assessment by teachers in schools by issuing a revised directive to members.
It instructed them not to assess any student for the optional oral examinations in Irish and/or modern languages for the Junior Cert, and also “not to make, facilitate or co-operate with any arrangements for any student to participate in the optional oral examinations”.
The difficulties for the ASTI in securing compliance with directives has been compounded in recent weeks by the decision of a significant number of non-union or former ASTI teachers in voluntary secondary schools to transfer to membership of the TUI.
The TUI does not recruit in such schools, and cannot represent these teachers at national collective bargaining, although all such bargaining takes place on a collective union basis anyway.
The TUI can represent these new members at local level in dealing with issues arising in their schools.
The union has not confirmed the numbers involved but has indicated that it has experienced a spike in new members in recent weeks.
Today’s figures also show the number of students taking Irish at higher level in the Junior Cert continues to increase. This year it stood at 29,770, representing 57 per cent of the 52,560 who sat the subject.
Contrasted with the 20,095 who took the Leaving Cert at higher level this year, this is a very positive indication of the growing strength of the subject in our schools.
Prior to the increase to 40 per cent from 20 per cent of the marks awarded for the oral component of both Junior and Leaving Cert by the then Minister for Education Mary Hanafin in 2007, only 339 or less than one per cent of students across 16 schools took this oral Gaeilge option at Junior Cert level .
More than 7,000 students were exempted from sitting Irish based on having entered the Irish education system after their 11th birthday or having a diagnosis of a disability.
Another notable feature of today’s results is the number (32,830) now taking higher maths.
The battle of the continental languages is being won hands down by French, taken by 31,609 or 60 per cent of the 52,945 students who studied one of four subjects.