On Tuesday 11th March teachers are being asked to spend their lunchtime at the gate of the school and protest against the introduction of the JCSA as it is presented.
In the immediate aftermath of the protest being announced there was a lot of differing commentary on some of the teachers’ Facebook Pages. This division is reflected in some of the twitter feeds of the past week. The initial reaction then is very mixed, and this can be very damaging to any campaign to oppose the JCSA. But such a campaign is necessary unless we are willing to accept a flawed programme.
So. What are the downsides of the protest?
- Well, many people think that the teachers at the gate will be a laughing stock for their students
- It is felt by many teachers that such a protest does not do anything to dissuade the minister, that the protest will lack any real punch
- There is the real fear that if the protest is not well enough supported, then it may be seen by the minister as a lack of resolve by teachers
And what do we stand to gain?
- People will see that teachers are willing to act in such a way that does not harm students’ educational attainment
- A good turnout will send a clear signal to the minister that teachers are willing to stand their ground in order to oppose the current JCSA
- This may in turn persuade the minister to engage properly with the unions and accept the criticisms and the concerns of professional teachers
I’ve written before, listing concerns that teachers have about the JCSA, and I’ve also written how I see the current plan as the result of a solo run by the minister. The TUI & ASTI have issued a joint document outlining the unions’ concerns.
Minister Quinn seems hell-bent on introducing the JCSA as it stands, and, so far, seems to be unwilling to listen to any concerns put forward by either the ASTI or the TUI. I doubt that a 30 or 40 minute protest at school gates will do anything to change his attitude in this.
And that brings me neatly to the ballot which is being put to teachers shortly. We will be asked to give the unions power to undertake industrial action and oppose the implementation of the JCSA. We will be asked to approve a campaign of non-cooperation.
I will turn out on Tuesday to support the protest, but only because I see the protest as the first step in a broader campaign to raise awareness about teachers’ concerns. In fact not just the concerns of teachers – parents of children who will be affected by these changes will have plenty to be worried about.
However, for any of this to work, both unions need to be able to send a clear message to the minister. I believe he will ignore anything else.
I believe that we teachers need to stand together next Tuesday and raise public awareness about the new Junior Cert. Beyond that we need to vote ‘Yes’ in the ballot for non-cooperation. Most people recognise that the Junior Cert needs reform. However, the JCSA is not what is needed. There are too many concerns for it to go ahead as it is. Lets work together to get our concerns addressed and give students a programme that will work and deliver for them.
By the way, the ASTI Nuacht outlining the protest and the ballot can be found here.