School managers to be briefed on junior cycle implementation plan

Unions may consider further strike action after Minister rebuffs plea for more talks

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan announcing she intends to continue rolling out the planned new junior cycle programme without the agreement of teacher unions while at the Labour Party annual conference. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

Department of Education officials are due to brief school managers today on how they intend to proceed with implementing junior cycle reforms despite continuing protests from teachers.

Secondary teacher unions decided on Friday to continue with their industrial action of non-co-operation with the implementation of the reforms.

Further strike action is now a possibility after the department turned down the unions’ request for “further intensive negotiations” on a compromise plan put forward by talks chairman Dr Pauric Travers.

In a joint statement early on Saturday, the ASTI and TUI said Dr Travers’s document did not in itself represent a resolution to the dispute and they were seeking movement on a range of issues, including external assessment, clarification on time, workload and resources, and the retention of CSPE (Civic, Social and Political Education) as a State-certified exam.

However, speaking at the Labour Party conference in Killarney, Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan said “we cannot continue to negotiate forever”.

She said: “Dr Travers requested that both parties would either accept or reject his proposals as a basis for agreement, not as a starting point for negotiation. Also central to Dr Travers’s proposal was a suspension of industrial action by both unions, a step they have failed to take.”

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Pat King

While the union executives decided on Friday to withdraw the threat of strike action, they said this was provisional on the “level and quality of any engagement” with the department.

Ms O’Sullivan said officials from her department would today meet not only management bodies but other education partners, including students’ and parents’ representatives, “all of whom are positive towards the Travers proposals”, to update them on her implementation plans.

Questioned by reporters on whether teachers would be disciplined for refusing to implement the reforms, Ms O’Sullivan said she believed teachers, as professionals, would do their job and engage with the curriculum.

The issue of disciplinary action is likely to kick in only in September if teachers at that stage refuse to participate in school-based assessment. The reforms are being introduced on a subject by subject basis, starting with English.

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