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Jan O'Sullivan rules out any more compromise on her Junior Cycle reforms

Teaching unions rejected a revised set of proposals today.

Jan O'Sullivan (File photo)
Jan O'Sullivan (File photo)
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Updated: 19.25

EDUCATION MINISTER JAN O’Sullivan has called on teaching unions to reconsider the proposals her department put forward in relation to Junior Certificate reform.

O’Sullivan said that the Education Department had already compromised with teachers and parents and would not be making further concessions.

“We’ve put our cards very firmly on the table. We are not moving any further, this is where we have moved to.”

The minister urged unions to talk to their members and “look at what’s on the table”.

Talks between the department and teachers unions ASTI and TUI broke down this afternoon. They had been ongoing last Friday, yesterday and today.

O’Sullivan said that she had offered teachers “a fair and sensible compromise” in relation to “urgent” reform.

In talks over recent days the second-level teaching unions have been offered a significantly altered framework for junior cycle reform. These changes are based on the consultation with parents, students and teachers that I have engaged in over recent months.

“The previous framework proposed the removal of state certification from the junior cycle and would have seen 100% of marks assessed by the class teacher.”

The main elements of the proposal were:

·       Final exams in third year accounting for 60% of junior cycle marks

·       These exams would be set and marked by the State Exams Commission

·       A State certificate would issue to every student on completion of the junior cycle.

·       40% of junior cycle marks would be awarded for project or portfolio work during 2nd and 3rd year

·       This 40% would be assessed by classroom teachers

·       The State Exams Commission would check a proportion of these marks to ensure consistency and fairness

Impasse

In a statement released  this evening, the ASTI and TUI called on O’Sullivan to intervene to “resolve the impasse in the talks process”.

The unions added that while they support improvements in the system, teachers have “serious concerns about the Framework for Junior Cycle which must be addressed including the threat to national education standards represented by school based assessment”.

O’Sullivan said that up to 15% of exam papers would be spot-checked by the State Examinations Commission to ensure fairness and quality were upheld.

She said she was “still willing to engage with teaching unions on this reformed framework”.

“Over the coming weeks I will be looking at how that agenda is advanced and I would ask the second-level teaching unions to re-engage on what is a fair basis for agreement.”

The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) has also expressed disappointment at the collapse of the talks.

However, the group said it “remains hopeful that the teaching unions and the Department will resume engagement”, noting that the concessions already made by O’Sullivan “suggest that agreement can eventually be reached”.

“Teachers and students are currently facing a ‘curricular limbo’ due to the lack of agreement on implementing the proposed Junior Cert reforms. It is vital that progress is made to ensure that schools are not left operating within a climate of uncertainty and confusion.”

Originally published: 18.23

Teachers tell minister they will continue their fight over Junior Cycle reforms

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