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Saturday 3 December 2016

End in sight to Junior Cert reform row

Education

Jan O'Sullivan
Jan O'Sullivan

An end to the long-running dispute over reform of the Junior Cert is in sight.

A plan to resolve the row has been agreed between Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan and the leadership of the two second-level unions, the Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) and Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI).

It will pave the way for the restoration of peace in second-level schools and the uninterrupted roll-out of the junior cycle changes, on a phased basis, from September.

The breakthrough came following two top-level meetings with union leaders in the past week.

A document that involves compromise on both sides will be presented to meetings of the executive bodies of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) on Friday.

However, the proposal does include a commitment to classroom-based assessment in English of second-year junior cycle students going ahead as planned next year, representing the first big step on the road to reform.

A key plank of union opposition to the reform package has been the idea that teachers take some responsibility for assessing their own students.

Critical

Ahead of the executive meetings, the sides were unwilling to discuss exactly how they bridged the gap on this critical issue.

While the proposals may meet resistance from some members of the union executives, the support of ASTI president Philip Irwin and TUI president Gerry Quinn - who attended the ground-breaking talks in the Department of Education - will be a key influence.

Crucially, there is agreement that the document will form the basis for a ballot by the teacher unions, as soon as is practicable after schools reopen in September.

This would be the first ballot by teachers on the issue since last year.

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