Divisions emerge as teachers meet on junior cycle

Unions taken aback at department’s refusal to hold further talks

Dr Pauric Travers, who drew up a compromise plan. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Dr Pauric Travers, who drew up a compromise plan. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

The executive bodies of the ASTI and TUI, which together represent 27,000 post-primary teachers, are holding a crucial meeting to decide whether to escalate their industrial action.

While the two secondary teacher unions are maintaining a united front in public, The Irish Times understands that there are deepening tensions between senior officials over the negotiation strategy.

The unions were taken aback at talks last week when the Department of Education refused to hold a further meeting under the chairmanship of Dr Pauric Travers, the former president of St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, who drew up the compromise plan.

A joint statement from unions is expected early this afternoon. The unions have a number of options available. They can put Dr Travers’ plan to ballot either with or without a recommendation, or they can reject the plan and urge the department to return to the negotiating table.

However, department officials have said they are unwilling to concede the union’s key demand for the removal of school-based assessments from the reforms. The unions executives may decide to combine rejection of the document with the announcement of further strike action.

School-based assessments

Department officials pointed out that they had already made a series of concessions, including restoring State certification for the new junior cycle award, and reducing the portion of time that would be spent on school-based assessments.

 

Under Dr Travers’s plan, which he described as the basis for "an honourable settlement", the new junior cycle would be split in two where one part would be marked by the State Examinations Commission through the traditional format and the other part would come from teacher assessments, carried out in the second and third year of secondary school.

The results would be recorded separately on a planned “Profile of Achievement”, which would replace the Junior Cert.

The unions managed to get some minor aspects of the plan altered last week.

Amend measures

In particular, the department agreed to amend measures governing how students might appeal school-based assessments.

 

However, the department has said if the unions walk away from the plan it will begin rolling out the next phase of the reforms, starting with the introduction of a new science specification.

Union officials are said to be divided over whether to step up industrial action to include a third one-day strike and/or lunchtime protests, or else agree to the plan in principle so that talks on resourcing can begin.

Some executive members are advocating putting the plan to union members for ballot but this is being resisted by a number of officials.