Teachers, O’Sullivan remain deadlocked on junior cycle reform

Minister for Education does not ‘think it is fair on students if we continue to prevaricate’

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan said she did not think “it is fair on the students if we continue to prevaricate” on the issue of Junior Cert reform. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan said she did not think “it is fair on the students if we continue to prevaricate” on the issue of Junior Cert reform. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Teachers’ unions and Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan remain deadlocked on the question of implementing junior cycle reform.

While the possibility of negotiation remains open there is no agreement as yet to initiate fresh talks.

Ms O’Sullivan said the unions could not continue to veto reform in a strident interview given to RTÉ. There had been ample time to discuss the issue of key concern to the unions, student assessment, she said.

Tánaiste Joan Burton later intervened, saying that Ms O’Sullivan “had been more than generous” in allowing adequate time for negotiation.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and the Teachers Union of Ireland, however, repeated the view expressed at the weekend that a compromise plan drawn up by Dr Pauric Travers provided a basis for further discussions, not for agreement.

“This is not a mindless attempt to stop reform,” TUI president Gerry Quinn said on Monday.

“We recognise there has been significant progress made. That is why we are looking at this in regard to further negotiations. We have written to the Minister seeking talks to resume and we are ready to talk as soon as possible with a view to resolving the issues,” he said.

Ms O’Sullivan said there had been more than 40 hours of talks and she had reached the stage where “ I would like to proceed with the full co-operation of teaching unions but I can’t allow them to veto reform, and that essentially is where they are at this time”.

“I don’t think it is right that the leadership of the teaching unions should continue to veto. They know they have been offered compromise,” she told RTÉ radio.

“We can’t allow this to drag on further and further - there are other partners involved in this. I don’t think it is fair on the students if we continue to prevaricate.”

The Tánaiste supported Ms O’Sullivan, saying as a society this had been a talking point for 40 years. Ms Burton said it was not an “earth-shaking” finding as everyone would like to see an alterative to rote learning.

“I think we know and everybody agrees, including I suspect almost every teacher, that that’s the way to go,” she said.

Ms Burton appealed to the teachers “for the sake of our children” to agree, adding the Travers document provided a “sound, solid basis for agreement”.

Mr Quinn pointed to the Travers document saying it had stated that no settlement could proceed without whole-hearted teacher support. “You need the teachers on side,” Mr Quinn said.

Ms O’Sullivan had said she wanted to press on with reform but this could not happen without agreement.

“The teachers won’t cooperate with planning and training and this remains in place. How can you press on when teachers are not cooperating,” Mr Quinn asked.

A joint statement from the unions on Monday afternoon said they were not proceeding with a strike day “at this time”.

A separate statement was issued on Monday by bodies representing stakeholders including school management bodies. It said it regretted that the unions had not accepted compromise proposals made by Dr Travers, which provided an approach to curriculum and assessment that would improve the learning experience of students.

It included the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools, Education and Training Boards Ireland, the Joint Management Body and the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals.