More than 730 schools are closed today as secondary teachers across the State strike over a junior cycle reform plan.
The action is affecting the 333,175 students enrolled this year in post-primary schools. A further one-day strike is planned for January.
Organisations representing schools boards of management yesterday joined parents’ and students’ representatives, as well as employers group Ibec, in calling for the strike to be called off.
The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union accused teachers of using students as “pawns” in the dispute, and described the reform plan as “good for students” as it would herald new types of teaching and learning in the classroom.
‘Regrettable and avoidable’
In a strongly-worded statement,
Education and Training Boards Ireland
, which represents vocational schools and training centres, described the strike as both “regrettable and avoidable”.
Its general secretary Michael Moriarty said Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan had made "significant concessions" by reducing school-based assessment from 100 per cent to 40 per cent of the new award, and by restoring state certification.
The Joint Managerial Body, which represents boards of management at almost two thirds of secondary schools, was also critical of the unions' stance.
Its general secretary Ferdia Kelly said the Minister’s proposals formed a “realistic basis” for the successful implementation of the new junior cycle.
However, the two unions representing secondary teachers – the ASTI and the TUI – say the Minister's proposals do not go far enough, and they want school-based assessment deleted from her plans.
Such assessment “would compromise the credibility, transparency and fairness of the examinations process,” the unions said in a joint statement.
The unions have also cited lack of resources as a reason for the dispute, saying: “Schools continue to struggle in the wake of six years of austerity cutbacks and teachers continue to have very serious and justified concerns about the capacity at system, school and individual levels to deal with the magnitude of change that the implementation of the proposed changes to junior cycle would involve.”
Ms O’Sullivan said she was open to discussing resources but insisted that school-based assessment should form part of the plan. “I would still invite the unions to engage with me,” she said.