A TRAINING session for English teachers expected to assess their own students under controversial Junior Cert reform proposals attracted a single attendee in Limerick yesterday, one of the unions who picketed the session has claimed.
But an unmoved Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan warned the unions behind the training boycott that the sessions will continue - as will Junior Cert reform more generally.
Members of the ASTI and TUI yesterday picketed the Limerick Education Centre in Dooradoyle, where English teachers were due for a CPD course ahead of assessing their students for state examinations for the first time next year.
A spokesperson for Limerick Education Centre said the numbers who attended were “low” without giving an exact figure.
But Peter Quinn, regional representative for the ASTI in Clare Limerick and Nenagh, said: “as far as I know only one person went ahead and did it and they may not be a member of a union”.
Union members, he said, had mounted the picket “because we are still in an industrial dispute and we think it is rather a provocative decision by the minister to go ahead and do this (training)”.
With exam season almost upon us, teachers have no plan for a repeat of the nationwide strike that saw over 700 secondary schools around the country close for a day in January. But a lunchtime protest will be mounted by teachers at schools around the country on May 7.
The dispute was now at “an impasse” over the fundamental issue of teachers assessing their own students for exam purposes, Mr Quinn said.
“I was rather disappointed during the teachers conference to hear the minister say she wasn’t going to capitulate to the teachers or the unions. But this dispute is not about saving face. The winners or losers will not be the teachers or the minister but the losers will be the education system,” he added.
Minister O’Sullivan countered that “teachers assess their own students all the time” whether that was at second level parent-teacher meetings or TUI members grading students for exam purposes at third level. She said all the other stakeholders in education were behind the reform agenda.
“I really think they need to re-examine this. We can’t have one group of people holding it up. Teachers are very important in education but all the other partners are important as well. Parents are important, students are important, principals and management bodies are important,” she said.
With the first English project works to be assessed next year, Minister O’Sullivan said she was “obliged” to go ahead with the training programme even if unions “are using it as part of the dispute”.
“I find it quite incongruous that teachers, who are all about expanding people’s knowledge, would want to stop teachers from expanding their knowledge,” she added.