Teachers to strike for two days in Junior Cert row

Strike days planned for December 2nd and another day in January


Secondary school teachers are to stage two, one-day strikes in protest at the planned reform of the junior cycle despite a decision this week to water down the plan.

The executive committees of the ASTI and the TUI decided today to hold a day’s strike action on Tuesday, December 2nd and a further day of strike action in January 2015, the date yet to be decided.

The move comes just days after Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan announced a significant roll-back on the reforms instigated by her predecessor Ruairí Quinn .

Under her revised plan, teachers would only have to assess 40 per cent of marks for the planned junior cycle certificate rather than 100 per cent as proposed by Mr Quinn.

ASTI president Philip Irwin defended the unions’ decision not to consult its members on the revised plan before announcing the strike action.

He said a previous ballot had mandated strike action to maintain the current system of “external assessment” so there was no need to seek a further ballot.

The turnout for the ASTI’s strike ballot last month was just 44 per cent. Of those of who voted, 84 per cent were in favour.

The TUI strike ballot was passed last March with a 62 per cent turnout.

The Minister described the unions’ decision as “disappointing and disproportionate”.

Ms O’Sullivan said: “It is deeply regrettable that the ASTI and the TUI have decided to embark on a course of action that will disrupt schools and cause serious inconvenience for students and their families.

“This decision is at variance with the potential for progress on junior cycle reform that is currently on the table.

“In putting a new offer on the table this week I have gone as far as I can to address those concerns while still maintaining the integrity of junior cycle reform.

“I wrote to both unions before their meeting today saying that I am willing to engage further at any stage on the basis of the new offer. That offer still stands,” she said.

The unions said they welcomed the shift in position by the Minister on some issues but matters of “critical importance” were not resolved.

“The threat posed to educational standards by the introduction of internal assessment remains and the issue of the capacity of schools to cope with the magnitude of such change was not addressed by the Department,” they said in a statement.

“Teachers favour positive, appropriately planned and fully resourced improvement and consistently campaign for this. They have reiterated their support for improvements to the Junior Cycle, but serious objections and concerns about aspects of the new programme remain. Notwithstanding the progress made in the recent negotiations, this is unacceptable.”

Speaking on RTÉ Radio News at One, Mr Irwin said teachers were open to project and portfolio work going towards certificate marks but they wanted these “externally assessed by the State Examinations Commission” rather than by teachers.