ASTI votes not to co-operate with junior cycle reform

Union directs members not to take part in any form of assessment linked to State exam

The reformed junior cycle still includes a major State exam at the end of third year, it will be accompanied by classroom-based assessments. File photograph: Peter Thursfield

The reformed junior cycle still includes a major State exam at the end of third year, it will be accompanied by classroom-based assessments. File photograph: Peter Thursfield

 

The biggest second-level teachers’ union has hardened its opposition to reform of the junior cycle by directing members not to co-operate in any form of assessment linked to the State exam.

The Government is introducing changes to the junior cycle this year aimed at placing less emphasis on traditional exams and introducing a much broader approach to assessment and learning.

While the reformed junior cycle still includes a major State exam at the end of third year, it will be accompanied by classroom-based assessments.

However, delegates at the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland on Wednesday voted to refuse to take part in any form of assessment linked to junior cycle reform.

At the union’s annual convention in Cork, delegates voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion which directed members to refuse to assess their own students.

The move is likely to make any chance of a resolution of the issue much less likely.

The ASTI is threatening a series of autumn strike days unless the Department of Education addresses its concerns about the reforms.

A series of one-day strikes would close up to 500 schools, forcing 250,000 students to stay a home.

Firmly opposed

ASTI delegate Mark Walshe told the convention the union was firmly opposed to teachers’ certifying their own students and it was vital that this principle was upheld.

Susie Hall, another delegate, said external assessment was crucial to the integrity and fairness of State exams.

“An examination system which protects students’ anonymity is gold – it should be protected and nurtured,” she said.

Therese Glennon, a delegate from the union’s northeast branch, said many parents were supportive of teachers’ refusal to engage in assessment of their own students.

“I like being an advocate for my students, not their judge and jury. School certification will do that, there is no doubt about it,” she said.

However, Noel Buckley from Tipperary said the union had secured major concessions from the Department of Education and warned against opening up a war on too many fronts.

“Now, we want to open up another war front . . . There are only five days in the week. I think we’ll be on strike on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,” he said.

Members of the ASTI rejected the proposed new junior cycle reforms in a ballot carried out in September 2015. However, only 40 per cent of the ASTI’s members voted.

Teachers who are members of the other second-level teachers’ union, the TUI, voted last year to accept a deal on junior cycle reforms by 69 per cent to 31 per cent, in a ballot in which 60 per cent of their members participated.

The division means just one in three schools will be in a position to deliver the junior cycle reform.

The latest motion is likely to further cement a two-tier system in which a minority of schools will take part in classroom-based assessments.

The assessments will include a new marking scheme which awards descriptions of achievement rather than traditional grades.