MINISTER for Education Jan O’Sullivan has again urged secondary teachers to call off a strike planned for next week, accusing unions of ‘failing to respond reasonably’ to her compromises on Junior Cert reform.
The one-day strike - which will see around 15 secondary schools in the city close their doors on Thursday, January 22 next - hinges on a move away from the state exam to course work being marked by teachers.
Teacher unions object that this will result in a less transparent, unfair grading process; fundamentally alter the relationship between teachers and students and put additional pressure on staff at a time when schools are reeling from austerity-driven cuts.
But Minister O’Sullivan said that “junior cycle reform is necessary and overdue”.
“Parents’ organisations, the Irish Second Level Students Union, management bodies and a wide range of education experts are fully supportive of my reform package. Industrial action should cease as I believe that more detailed talks can result in progress,” she stated.
But attempts to broker a deal last week had broken down and the minister conceded there was “a significant gap between both sides”.
The Limerick minister contends she has gone some distance in softening her position in that the current proposal is for teachers to grade only 40% of course work rather than the original 100%.
“I am still waiting on the teacher unions to respond in kind to the fair and reasonable compromise I tabled in November,” she said.
Strike action was “disproportionate” and would not advance the dispute “one iota”.
“It will result in our second-level students missing another day at school, cause inconvenience to parents across the country and result in teachers losing another day’s pay. There is no basis for this strike action,” she said.