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"Last resort": Teachers could strike over Junior Cert reforms

The Department of Education said that talks are ongoing between the Minister and teachers.

Image: Students via Shutterstock

UNHAPPY TEACHERS COULD end up striking over plans to reform the Junior Cycle.

ASTI members voted overwhelmingly to extend the union’s industrial action over plans by the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, to implement the framework for Junior Cycle.

The union said its members voted by 84% to 16% in favour of extending industrial action, to include a one-day strike and further strike action if necessary.

The Framework for Junior Cycle will replace the Junior Cert exam, and involves a school-awarded certificate based on exams set and marked by the students’ teachers.

“Last resort”

Pat King, ASTI General Secretary, said that strike action is “always the very last resort for teachers”.

King said that today’s result shows the depth of feeling amongst ASTI members “that the Framework proposals will have a serious negative impact on students’ experience of second-level education”.

ASTI President Philip Irwin said that the outcome of this ballot “reflects the deep concern ASTI members have” that the the reforms mark “a running down of Junior Cycle education which will result in a decline in student motivation due to the diminished status of the exam”.

He said the union believes it is possible to transform the Junior Cycle and “to provide students with a truly modern, cutting-edge education experience without losing what works and what is highly valued by parents and teachers.”

The current industrial action

The Framework for Junior Cycle is being implemented in second-level schools on a phased basis starting from this school year.

Members of the ASTI and TUI, which comes to approximately 27,000 second-level teachers, are currently engaged in industrial action. This is in the form of non co-operation with the introduction and implementation of the framework.

Today’s ASTI ballot result means that both second-level teacher unions now have a mandate to extend the current industrial action to include strike action.

What the Education Minister says

The Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, TD said today that since coming to office she has discussed the Junior Cycle reform with parents, teacher, students and school management representatives.

Last month, at the Minister’s invitation, the teacher unions outlined to her their concerns about the proposed reforms.

In doing so, the unions underlined to the Minister teacher support for reforms that will lead to better quality teaching and learning experiences and thence outcomes for students.

O’Sulivan is currently considering the concerns which were raised by teacher representatives. She is also looking at “what different forms of engagement might be considered to facilitate an overall agreement”.

The Minister said she is also looking forward to the follow-up meeting with the teaching unions again later this month.

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

Read: Hundreds of teachers won’t be trained for the new English curriculum by September>

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