Unions urge teachers to ‘hold firm’ on junior cycle reform

ASTI and TUI say they ‘want to resolve the dispute’ but only if conditions are met

Gerry Quinn, TUI president and Philip Irwin, ASTI president have issued a joint statement to members urging them to “hold firm” at this “critical” stage of junior cycle reform talks. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Gerry Quinn, TUI president and Philip Irwin, ASTI president have issued a joint statement to members urging them to “hold firm” at this “critical” stage of junior cycle reform talks. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

The leaders of the two unions representing secondary teachers have urged members to “hold firm” in their industrial action over junior cycle reforms.

In a joint statement, delivered to their respective conferences in Killarney and Wexford, ASTI president Philip Irwin and TUI president Gerry Quinn said the dispute was now at a “critical stage”.

The unions had achieved some concessions through their strike action but the plan to have teachers assess their own students was “unacceptable”, and “professionally repugnant”, they said.

In the joint statement, which was delivered initially by Mr Quinn in Wexford, the unions said that “together we will succeed”.

Noting that teachers “understand what will, and will not work, in their classrooms”, they said: “We want to resolve this dispute, we want to ensure the best possible educational experience for our junior cycle students.”

They pointed out that English teachers had been invited to attend CPD (continuing professional development) next week.

“At this stage it is vital that our directive on CPD is adhered to and that members hold firm. In order to further protect teachers of English from unfair pressure, CPD centres will be picketed.

“In addition to this, and in order to ensure that we continue to highlight our serious concerns to parents and the wider public about the impact of the framework for junior cycle on standards, equity and fairness for all students, the ASTI and TUI will be holding a nationwide lunchtime protest outside schools in the coming weeks,” the unions said.

‘Peril’

The unions said the origin of the dispute was the decision by former minister for education Ruairí Quinn on 4th October 2012 to abolish the externally assessed and state certified Junior Certificate.

“In doing so he placed national education standards and public confidence in our examination system in peril. Teachers understood the damage being threatened and resolved to defend the education system and the long term interests of the students and the country.

“We were subsequently proven correct in our view that a key driver of these changes was Government austerity measures.”

The unions reiterated their opposition to compromise proposals put forward by talks chairman Pauric Travers. They said this plan “dilutes the external assessment/state certification structure which is at the heart of our campaign”.

Dr Travers’s document also said that further talks should take place to address resources, workload and school capacity.

“However, there is an unacceptable pre-condition which is to accept the major flaws in his proposals and to suspend our directives. For teachers of English this would involve CPD to prepare for a school based assessment of an oral communication project which is professionally repugnant to them.

“The Junior Cycle Dispute is now at a critical stage. Through joint action the TUI and ASTI have succeeded in bringing about substantial changes to the original Junior Cycle Framework proposals.

“There remains a number of fundamentally important matters to be resolved including the need for all subjects to have projects etc externally assessed for state certification, the need to address teacher workload problems and the need for school resources.”