Minister to “keep door open” for teacher talks

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Jan O'Sullivan, the Limerick minister who will be involved in the launch of the new energuy initiative "Let's Conserve Energy Together Better."
Minister Jan O'Sullivan
Minister Jan O’Sullivan

EDUCATION Minister Jan O’Sullivan says she believes the package offered to second-level teaching unions last week has the capacity to resolve the long-running dispute regarding Junior Cert reforms.

The Minister made her comments after a meeting with both the ASTI and the TUI yesterday (Wednesday, November 19).

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“I want to maintain a dialogue with second-level teaching unions in relation to junior cycle reform. While I am disappointed at both unions’ decision to take strike action on the 2nd December I will keep my door open for talks in the coming weeks.

“There is a significant offer available to both teaching unions that retains State certification, introduces reform and gives a better learning experience to students. I sincerely believe that this offer will in the end of the day form the basis of an agreement and the sooner we engage around that compromise the better,” explained Minister O’Sullivan.

However, she added that while she has “moved significantly”, it appears that both teachers’ unions “remain resistant to any classroom-based assessment by the teacher contributing to junior cycle marks”.

Minister O’Sullivan continued: “Classroom assessment is an important element of junior cycle reform. It provides students with the route to measure important skills such as teamwork, problem solving and communication. I believe that teachers should be involved in that assessment.”

Meanwhile, Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh principal Donncha Ó Treasaigh believes that there is “no appetite” among teachers for strike action.

Mr Ó Treasaigh said he is in favour of the reforms currently proposed and that he is “against strike action as it would lead to major inconvenience for both parents and pupils”.

He added that school-based assessment “encourages the teaching of a broader range of skills and means that a much more rounded picture emerges of each young person’s capabilities and successes”.

Don Ryan, TUI (Teachers’ Union of Ireland) representative for Limerick City, Clare and North Tipperary, said that the TUI and ASTI welcomed the Department of Education’s amendments to the initial proposals but insisted that “issues of critical importance were not resolved”.

According to Mr Ryan, teachers are in favour of reforming the Junior Cert, “but serious objections and concerns about aspects of the new programme remain” that he says are unacceptable.

Some 88 per cent of TUI members voted in favour of industrial action at a meeting last week.

Previous proposals had suggested that teachers would be responsible for marking 100 per cent of a student’s work throughout the junior cycle, but Minister O’Sullivan has now proposed that 60 per cent of marks should be allocated on the basis of an exam at the end of third year, which would be externally marked.