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Richard McKenna

Article: ASTI threatens one-day strike over Junior Cycle reforms


Irish Times Wednesday 8th October 2014
Author: Joe Humphreys.

1. CONCISE SUMMARY OF READING


The main aim of this article is highlighting the fact that teachers are not willing to grade their own students own
work, as it will affect the student teacher relationship with students thinking teachers are being biased when
grading.
Early in the article it states that the main union for secondary school teachers (ASTI) have voted to strike over
the framework proposals. It states that the turnout for the ballot was just 44% which is lower than the 45% who
registered a vote for the previous ballot for non cooperation with the Junior Cycle plan.
ASTIs general secretary Pat King quotes Strike action is always the very last resort for teachers and todays
result shows the depth of feeling amongst ASTI members that the framework proposals will have a serious
negative impact on students experience of second-level education. Which highlights the fact that a clear
message is coming from the teachers on the ground that they are not prepared to implement the proposals which
they feel are educationally unsound.
The ASTI is in fact in favour of modernising the Junior Cycle, this article objects certain aspects that former
minister Ruairi Quinn has planned. This article addresses two main areas of concern; firstly the plans to have
teachers assess their own students work within schools. Secondly teachers want to retain the current junior cert
state approved qualification rather than the proposed school based junior cycle student award (JCSA).
Philip Irwin ASTI president voices his concerns in relation to the latter, adding many parents are also
feel the same way as the majority of teachers in relation to the implementation of school based assessment.
The article then goes onto talk about the teachers union of Ireland (TUI) having the same mandate for strike,
which was approved in March 2014, with a 62% turnout. Unions have instructed teachers not to implement short
courses and both unions have stopped short of instructing members to cease teaching the new programme
content. This article states that teachers are contractually obliged to teach the programme but will not assess
their own students work which is to start for English in 2016.
This article highlights that New minister Jan OSullivan is currently having meetings with both unions in an
attempt for her to reconsider the extent of the reforms. In pre-budget submission the joint managerial body that
represents more than half the states 720 secondary schools are looking for the minister to introduce on a trial
basis the plans that where originally put forward by the National Council for curriculum & assessment (NCCA)
where teachers would assess just 40% and the remaining 60% to be externally assessed by means of a state
exam such as the junior cert.
In conclusion this article provides a clear message that teachers are not prepared to implement proposals which
they believe are educationally unsound, along with the fact that the minister Jan OSullivan needs to engage
with teacher unions in a way that ensures teachers concerns are heard and addresses

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2. CRITICAL REFLECTION
The article provides a very good argument in relation to former minister Quinns Junior Cycle Reform,
Teachers do not want to strike but if they feel there voice is not being met there is no other way to be heard.
From this article and further research there seems to be lot of worry on the ground amongst teachers,
(Flaherty, 2014) newspaper article reports that 10% of English teachers to have not completed training regarding
the new Junior Cert reform which they are teaching at present, with not enough CPD training hours and vague
direction with only a one day workshop to implement the latter. This is worrying to me as a student teacher in
my final year the apparent lack of support teachers get in relation to change. With this in mind I am of the same
opinion as the ASTI.
The NCCA warned that real transformation would not happen without additional training for teachers
and the provision of necessary resources for schools which is not being met (Matters, 2011).
I would also be in favour of certain aspects of Quinns reform; having come through the Junior Cert I can see
gaps for improving without a doubt. This article points out worrying aspects that need to be addressed.
o School based assessment
o National School certificate
In contrast to the junior certificate that is in place at the minute, this is a radical change in the education system
taking the focus off the final state exam after third year, placing an emphasis on continual assessment taking the
pressure off students which allows them to settle into 1st year and get use to the format of post primary school,
as it focuses on the program and not just the exam (NCCA, 2011, p. 19). I feel that the 40% for the continual
assessment will promote active learning in the classroom, as Aristotle said you learn more by doing (Broadie,
1991, p. 104), the remaining 60% will take a lot of pressure off the students for their final year exam at the end
of 3rd year (NCCA, 2011, p. 4). I believe this will help the students connect with the learning at the same time
improving the quality of learning that takes place.
Having said that, the main argument in this article is the fact that Quinn ignored various aspects of the NCCAs
proposal in 2011, The NCCAs proposals where to have the remaining 60% externally assessed and keeping a
state recognised Junior Cert exam which Quinn ignored.
This article just scrapes the surface about the concerns teachers have around this, TUI members are also in
favour of this article and have also voted in favour of industrial action over school based assessment by a margin
of 88% yes to 12% no with a turnout of 62% (Piofficer, 2014)

I agree entirely with the ASTI in this article as does the TUI, as a future teacher I have worries of school based
assessment. Schools play a large part in local communities and if I where to put a final grade on my students
work it could cause possible implications where a parent is not happy with their childs result; teachers are
exposed to verbal and possible physical abuse, this could result in teachers being tempted to inflate grades of
which the student did not earn. TUI President Gerry Quinn states in the Irish independent If teachers were to
mark their own students' work, surely this leaves them open to the possibility of accusations of bias or
unfairness (Smith, 2014)
Other implications that could occur, where a weak teacher be tempted to inflate grades to disguise their own
teaching flaws. If the school based assessment for 40% goes ahead this will put schools in a position to inflate
school grades giving social class to certain schools over others.
Anyone who has gone through the Irish examination system can attest, its best feature is the complete
anonymity and fairness of the marking system, where nothing could be accused of influencing the grade
obtained (Smith, 2014). New minister Jan OSullivan addresses this by rolling back on her predecessor Ruairi
Quinns idea of abolishing the Junior Cert all together. Whereby keeping a state exam at the end of 3rd year
which would contribute towards 60% of the state recognised certificate (Humphreys, 2014)will promote fairness
throughout the education system with the national standard being able to be measured equally.

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3.

LIST OF REFERENCES

Bibliography
Broadie, S. (1991). Ethisc with Aristotle. New York: Oxford University.
Flaherty, R. (2014, July 16th). Many Teachers Not Finished Junior Cert Reform Training.
Dublin: Irish Times.
Humphreys, J. (2014, 11 11). Junior cycle reform talks collapse despite compromise offer.
Retrieved 12 08, 2014, from Irish Times:
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/junior-cycle-reform-talks-collapsedespite-compromise-offer-1.1996687
Matters, E. (2011, 11 2011). Junior Cert to be Abolished. Retrieved 10 15, 2014, from
Education Matters: http://educationmatters.ie/em_news/junior-cert-to-be-abolished/
NCCA. (2011). Towards a Framework for Junior Cycle. Dublin: NCCA.
Piofficer. (2014, 03 28). TUI Directive to Members on Junior Cycle . Retrieved 10 15, 2014,
from Teachers Union of Ireland: http://www.tui.ie/news-events/tui-directive-tomembers-on-junior-cycle.5435.html
Smith, A. (2014). The Problem with the Junior Cert Reform is that Students May Think
Teachers Are Biased. Dublin: Irish Independent .

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