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Under fire

Ruairí Quinn: Being booed and heckled by teachers 'certainly wasn't enjoyable'

Meanwhile, the Department of Education has denied that the Minister was trying to suggest a higher level maths requirement would get more men into the teaching profession.

Updated 10.40am 

EDUCATION MINISTER RUAIRÍ Quinn has admitted it “wasn’t enjoyable” to be booed and heckled at a teachers’ conference yesterday as he insisted that he will continue with planned reforms to the junior cycle.

Quinn was barracked as he delivered a speech to the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) yesterday amid ongoing opposition to the introduction Junior Certificate Student Award (JCSA) as a replacement for the Junior Cert.

Speaking on Today with Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio this morning, the Minister said: “I think it is difficult to be treated in that particular way, it’s a matter for them to consider what it is doing to the image that they have as a union.”

He said the JCSA was not going to be deferred, but said that its introduction has been delayed to implement it over 10 years, insisting there is “plenty of time to resolve issues”.

On the same progreamme, the ASTI’s Pat King said that the barracking was carried out by “extremist people” and said they “certainly were not democrats”. He said he had apologised to Quinn.

The Minister also came under fire yesterday for comments about a “highly feminised” audience at the INTO conference earlier in the day.

Quinn said he was trying to make the point that young girls drop Maths at Higher Level after the Junior Cert because they don’t need it to go into teaching, as he announced plans for Higher Level Maths to be mandatory at Leaving Cert level in order to begin teacher training.

“I was trying to make points but they got hopelessly intermingled because I went off script and got distracted as a consequences and I think my message got confused,” he said.

His comments did not go down well with the teachers, or on Twitter afterwards:

We asked the minister’s department what he meant by these comments to teachers and here’s what they said:

He would like to see higher level maths in Leaving Cert become part of the minimum entry requirements to Initial Teacher Education. This would be similar to the situation with higher level Irish.
He said in a feminised profession like teaching, young women who at 15 sit Junior Cert higher maths, decide at Leaving Cert not to opt for honours as they deem it to be too much work to get a similar mark or points. They are capable of it, but decide not too because of its difficulty.
He did not say such a proposal would address the feminisation of the profession. He did not refer to trying to get more men into the profession. Rather, he is looking at ways to improve numeracy in primary schools and believes if higher level maths, like higher level Irish, was a minimum entry requirement for initial teacher education this would help in improving numeracy.

- additional reporting Hugh O’Connell

First published 10.09am 

Read: Education Minister faces sustained heckling and booing as he speaks to secondary teachers>

Poll: Should Higher Level Maths be a requirement to become a primary school teacher?>

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