Fee-school teachers criticised over refraining from junior cycle reform

ASTI balloting members on settlement proposals in effort to end lengthy dispute

Junior cycle reforms: The ASTI is opposed  and says teachers should not be asked to assess their own students for work linked in any way to State exams. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

Junior cycle reforms: The ASTI is opposed and says teachers should not be asked to assess their own students for work linked in any way to State exams. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

 

Teachers in some fee-paying schools have been criticised by Department of Education inspectors for failing to implement changes linked to the reformed junior cycle.

Members of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) are banned from taking part in assessments or training linked to the new junior cycle.

This includes an assessment task – worth 10 per cent of this summer’s English exam – which has not yet been undertaken by up to 40,000 pupils due to the dispute.

In a number of new subject inspection reports published by the department, teachers have been criticised for not conducting these assessments or holding meetings to discuss students’ progress.

In a subject inspection report for English at Rockwell College, Co Tipperary, officials noted teachers had not conducted classroom-based assessments required under the new curriculum. The reason given was industrial action.

Inspectors stated that for students to benefit from the full range of learning experiences, teachers should implement all aspects of the course outlined in official circulars.

In addition, it said teachers should take part in subject review meetings to build a “common understanding of the quality of student learning and to quality assure the assessment of students’ work”.

Inspectors added that the development of the collection of students’ texts to meet the requirements for a second classroom-based assessment should begin with “some urgency” in second and third year.

Teachers at Alexandra College, a fee-paying school in Milltown, Dublin, also faced criticism.

Common understanding

While inspectors found that English teachers had conducted classroom-based assessments with third-year classes, subject learning and assessment review meetings had not been held. The report states teachers should engage in these meetings to build a common understanding of the quality of student learning.

The ASTI is opposed to junior cycle reforms and says teachers should not be asked to assess their own students for work linked in any way to State exams. It insists its stance is based on protecting education standards.

The union is balloting its 18,000 members on settlement proposals which, if accepted, would end the dispute and allow thousands of pupils to avoid penalties in their summer exams.

If it is rejected, teachers would continue to boycott training or assessments linked to the exam.

The National Parents Council (Post-Primary), meanwhile, has called on the ASTI and the department to “stop using our children as pawns” in the dispute.

Rose Callan, president of the council, said it was unfair to place children in the front line of any dispute.

“No student should be penalised by way of fewer marks being available in an exam nor should they lose any hours in the classroom,” she said.

Ms Callan said the dispute was creating uncertainty and instability for students, teachers and parents. “It has gone on too long and is delaying necessary advances in education which are essential if Ireland is to be able to respond to the international competitive challenges coming our way,” she said.

Ms Callan said the potential for students being marked differently in the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) or ASTI schools was not acceptable.