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Teachers are miffed Junior Cert details were leaked to newspaper

Unions have rejected the draft document but say it may form the basis for discussions.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

TEACHERS’ UNIONS HAVE said it was damaging to discussions that a confidential draft document on the Junior Cycle was leaked to the media ahead of a meeting today.

The executive bodies of the ASTI and TUI rejected the draft document but said it may form the basis for discussions.

As it currently stands, it does not form the basis for an agreement, the union’s presidents Philip Irwin and Gerry Quinn said in a joint statement.

“Significant aspects of the document are not acceptable to teachers. The ASTI and TUI believe that substantial change, clarification and negotiation on the draft document are required before agreement is possible.”

They also said it was “regrettable and damaging that the confidential document was leaked to a national newspaper in advance of today’s meeting”. Details of the draft featured in a story in today’s Irish Independent.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie this afternoon, Philip Irwin said it was “worrying” that the document had been leaked and he felt it was an attempt to “put pressure on people”.

“We don’t like that, it’s difficult to negotiate on the airwaves,” he said. “It’s hard then to decide, with all of that out there, what do you say and how do you react so, yes, it puts us in a difficult and unnecessary situation.”

The paper reported that Dr Pauric Travers, who has been chairing talks between the Department of Education and unions, called on teachers to suspend any further industrial action.

He also proposed that the department delay implementation of its next phase of reform which would be science. However he reportedly backed the plan requiring teachers to do 40% assessment and the other 60% to be assessed through a formal written exam.

This is a major sticking point for teachers, who have maintained throughout these discussions that they are not willing to engage in assessment for state certification.

Irwin said that while teachers do not have a problem with moving away from the external exam, they believe external assessment is what works in the Irish system.

“It gives it credibility, integrity and ensures national standards can be maintained.”

Today Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan said she believed the document goes a long way to frame a fair and equitable solution.

“I am disappointed at the initial reaction of both teaching unions to the document.  It is intended to be a draft agreement, not a starting point for negotiations,” she said in a statement.  ”However, I understand Dr. Travers is available to both sides for clarification next week in advance of the Thursday deadline which Dr. Travers has set for acceptance or rejection of the document by both sides, and I await the outcome of this engagement.”

Both of the unions have re-iterated the importance of the maintenance of education quality and standards in any agreement. They have a mandate for industrial action said Irwin said teachers are prepared to strike if an agreement can’t be reached.

Read: Principals face high levels of bullying and even violence from pushy parents>

Read: Teacher unions to consider new proposals on junior cycle reform>

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