ASTI to ballot on strike action over Junior Cycle reforms despite meeting with Minister

Minister for Education agrees to open talks next month with teacher unions

Minister for Educaion Jan O’Sullivan. “I will use the coming weeks to reflect on the concerns which were raised by teacher representatives...” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Educaion Jan O’Sullivan. “I will use the coming weeks to reflect on the concerns which were raised by teacher representatives...” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan has agreed to open talks next month with teacher unions over the implementation of Junior Cycle reforms.

However, the threat of industrial action still looms over the plan, with the ASTI balloting this month on a possible one-day strike.

Senior officers of both the ASTI and the TUI, which together represent post-primary teachers, held an hour-long meeting yesterday with the Minister in which they spelled out their concerns about the planned reforms.

Ms O’Sullivan said: “All sides recognised that reform has begun with the introduction of a revised English specification in all schools last week, but that further work is required to reach agreement on the overall reforms.”

Both unions have complained about lack of consultation, claiming that the previous talks which involved a working group of stakeholders served to isolate frontline workers.

Sources yesterday put great emphasis on the Minister’s apparently willingness to engage “directly” with the unions, regarded as a departure from the stance of her predecessor Ruairí Quinn.

Two sides

Welcoming the “positive engagement” yesterday, she agreed to more detailed discussions in mid-October.

In the meantime, however, the ASTI is balloting members on extending its mandate of non-co-operation with the Junior Cycle reforms to one of industrial action, matching the stance of the TUI.

Ballots papers are to be sent to teachers on September 15th and returned by October 6th. If passed the union would be mandated to carry out a one-day strike and possibly further strike action.

In a joint statement the two teachers’ unions said yesterday’s meeting was “positive in that the Minister gave unions the opportunity to outline teachers’ key concerns”.

Own subjects

English is the first subject being taught under the new framework, starting from this month for first-year students, followed by science next year, and Irish and business studies in September 2016.

In their statement the unions said they would “continue to fight for the maintenance of standards, transparency, quality and equity. Any new version of the Junior Cycle must include a national certificate based on external assessment.

“There are very serious concerns over the capacity at system, school and individual levels to meet the demands of such significant change in a resource-starved environment.”