Jan O’Sullivan signals further movement on junior cycle reform

Joint Managerial Body says evidence of discrimination lacking to justify admissions Bill

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan says an agreement with teacher unions over junior cycle reform is “within closer reach than at any point over the last few years”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan says an agreement with teacher unions over junior cycle reform is “within closer reach than at any point over the last few years”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Minister for Education has indicated a willingness to further water down planned junior cycle reforms to achieve agreement with teacher unions.

However, Jan O’Sullivan said she would not compromise on key principles, including the “need to give prominence and importance to classroom-based assessment”.

Addressing a meeting of school managers in Co Kerry , she said: “I don’t have a magic fix to this issue that I can announce today. But I will say that I believe that agreement is within closer reach than at any point over the last few years.”

Responding to concern from delegates about uncertainty created by teachers’ non-co-operation with training ahead of the start of junior cycle assessments for English next year, the Minister said “I would hope that we will be able to re-engage with the teaching unions in the very near future” and to resolve the dispute “very quickly”.

Industrial action

Ms O’Sullivan was speaking at the annual meeting of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB), which represents the boards of management of two-thirds of secondary schools, including those under Catholic patronage.

In his address to the conference, JMB president Fr Paul Connell criticised the Minister’s decision to push ahead with the Admission to Schools Bill despite what he described as a lack of evidence of discrimination by school managers.

Resent

He also criticised public commentary around the recent unsuccessful Supreme Court case taken by a Traveller boy against CBS High School in Clonmel, Co Tipperary.

Fr Connell pointed out that the school had always enrolled Travellers and a further 29 pupils were unsuccessful in getting a place the year the boy applied.

School managers suffered from “repetitive change injury” and “we will soon be legislated out of existence”.

On the junior cycle, the JMB has proposed a further amendment to the reform plan to try to break the “stalemate” between the Minister and the unions which would see the school-based assessment of students’ work further divorced from the State-certified exams.

JMB general secretary Ferdia Kelly said it was proposing that the compromise proposals set out by Dr Pauric Travers be further revised so instead of assessing two pieces of written work teachers would carry out two in-class evaluations of different kinds of learning.

He proposed schools would then “report on the outcomes of this assessment to parents through an agreed report template around the Easter of third year along with a record of the student’s achievement in other areas of learning”.

This would replace the proposed Profile of Achievement, which intends to record all facets of the students’ work, including exam performance, at the end of junior cycle.