Teachers picket over changes to Junior Cert

by Ian Begley
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Clondalkin secondary school teachers held an all-day strike outside their schools over proposed reforms to the Junior Cert on December 2.
Their demonstration was part of a national ASTI protest where over 350,000 secondary school students were forced to take a day off as a result of the strike.
A second stoppage is scheduled for January.
The main issue at hand is that teachers are being asked by the Department of Education to mark 40% of their student’s coursework.
This is down from 100% which was first proposed by the Department, but teachers feel that marking their own student’s State exams would fundamentally affect their relationship with their students and change the way they do their jobs.
Commenting on the teacher’s action Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan said that the strike was “unnecessary and disproportionate”.
As part of an ASTI agreement, teachers demonstrating outside their schools did it in small groups, in shifts, throughout the day.
James Connell from Moyle Park College, Clondalkin, and ASTI Steward told the Gazette that their protest of 95 teachers remained positive, saying it was with “regret” that they had to protest and make the school close for the day.
He said: “The teachers of Moyle College regret that secondary school teachers have been left with no option but to take strike action and also a further day in January as yet to be announced.
“Teachers have repeatedly voiced their concerns about the proposed changes to the Junior Certificate and have a strong mandate from members to take strike action as they feel a lot of damage will be done to the education system.
“Whilst teachers are all in favour of many aspects of reform such as continuous assessment, portfolio work and group/ teamwork, teachers have serious concerns about assessing their own students and the downgrading of the Junior Certificate State exam.
“Irrespective of where students are from or what school they attend, students have an equal opportunity to prove themselves in a final externally assessed exam,” he said.
ASTI president Philip Irwin said in a statement that: “Teachers care deeply about the education system that they work in and the students they teach.
“They are reluctantly taking strike action in protest at what they see as a significant threat to education standards and education quality in Ireland.
“However, we are open to further engagement with the Minister on this issue in an effort to seek a solution,” he said.
Minister O’Sullivan said: “I believe the strike could have been averted and I think it’s very disappointing that the teacher unions didn’t come and have meaningful talks.
“I’ve offered very significant proposals which involve the best of both worlds as it involves a final written exam and also school based assessment.
“I do think the strike is unnecessary, I do think it’s disproportionate and I think it’s disappointing that the schools are closed today,” she said.

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