| 9.5°C Dublin

Teachers' strike threat over Junior Cert reform

The threat of industrial action, including strikes, is hanging over second-level schools again after teacher unions rejected a compromise deal over Junior Cert reform.

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan said she was "disappointed" with the breakdown in talks, which went on for three days before ending without agreement yesterday.

Ms O'Sullivan made it clear she was holding firm on changes to the Junior Cycle and said yesterday's development would "not scupper the much-needed reform".

She said the next move was up to the unions and she wanted them to consult with their members about what she had put on the table.

But there is no indication of any softening in the position of the Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), as they each prepare for meetings of their executives on Friday.

Both unions already have mandates for industrial action, including strikes, in opposition to elements of the plan, particularly the replacement of the traditional state exams in June with teachers grading their own students.

The compromise offered to the unions is significant as it includes the retention of a state certificate, rather than replacing it with a school-based Junior Cycle Student Award.

The minister also proposed to retain the traditional June exams for 60pc of the marks in each subject, with teachers responsible for the other 40pc.


But TUI general secretary John MacGabhann said that while they were open to more school-based assessment during the Junior Cycle years, in order to take the focus off the traditional exam, it would have to be done by external examiners and not by students' own teachers.

Ms O'Sullivan said her compromise was designed to retain the progressive elements of reform while addressing concerns expressed by the teachers in relation to marking their own students' work.

"It is regrettable that the teaching unions have failed to engage positively," she said.