THOUSANDS of Limerick students had a day off yesterday as secondary teachers took part in a one day action against Junior Cert changes.
An estimated 600 teachers across Limerick went on strike with picket lines set up outside school gates in protest at a plan which would see teachers assess their own students.
The action, supported by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI), is based on fears that the reforms could see inconsistencies between schools and undermine standards.
Former Labour councillor Tom Shortt, a shop steward at Scoil Carmel, joined the picket line yesterday afternoon.
He believes Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan inherited a problem situation from predecessor Ruairi Quinn, but has moved the situation on “significantly”.
But, he added: “There are genuine and deep rooted fears against school-based assessments for these examinations. There is a feeling the award has greater integrity when it is externally marked. Teachers have worked in this system for years, and we believe it is one of the strengths of the Irish education system - this very objective and fair marking system.”
Denis Collins, a history and geography teacher at Youthreach on O’Connell Avenue, believes students will suffer with internal marking.
“We feel it is going to be an unfair system, and they will suffer for this. Teachers who mark their own students work may not be fair. The system we have now is by no means perfect - but it is fair.”
Eric Nelligan, a technical graphics teacher at St Munchin’s College, Corbally, said there has been an “overwhelmingly positive reaction” from people passing by, a sentiment shared by teachers across Limerick yesterday.
But the strike has attracted criticism from student leaders, school managers, principals, academics, employers and many politicians who support the reforms.
Donncha O’Treasaigh, principal at Gaelcholaiste Luimni was clearly opposed to the strike, calling it “disproportionate”, and saying that the Parents Council of Ireland were one of many groups asking for it to be called off.
Ms O’Sullivan has said her door remains open for further talks with the unions. Another one day strike is scheduled to take place early in the new year.