I reckon Minister Jan O’Sullivan is beginning to think that us teachers are an ungrateful lot. She’s in the job less than a year, and we’re heading towards our second strike. Why?
Well that’s the core question. Why should we go on strike again? Why not just accept what the minister referred to yesterday as her ‘fair and reasonable compromise’?
Let’s take the question a step further. Why go on strike when so many schools already had a day off yesterday? At least that’s what this tweet suggests:
So there you have it. The strike is about having a day off.
There is one core principle at stake in this strike. That of assessment. In Ireland the final assessment of a student’s grade is absolutely impartial. It is a core value of our system. And our government wants to squander this in a money saving exercise. (more on that later)
Our state examination system is one of the few things in this country that we can truly say is impartial. Money can’t buy grades or favours in the system. When an examiner starts reading scripts, the only identification he or she will get is the exam centre number, and the candidate number. Race, Gender, Ethnicity, Wealth, Sexuality or even Behaviour are not factors when it comes to having your exam corrected.
The same could not be said of a teacher correcting his or her own students’ work. All of us teachers are human. Any of us can end up liking one student over another for the simplest or stupidest of reasons. And this could affect that student’s grade.
Let’s talk about the money.
At our first strike I was asked if this was about pay. Would teachers accept the change if more pay was offered? It was a fair question, and I probably didn’t give the best answer at the time. But I’ve had time to think about it.
The strike isn’t about pay – but resources are part of the picture.
Schools, have suffered a brutal regime of cutbacks in the past six years, and our most recent budget had even more cutbacks in store.
- Remove Guidance Counsellors from secondary schools
- Increase the pupil/teacher ratio
- Cut capitation grants to schools
- Again, cut capitation grants to schools (and again for next year)
- Reduce supports for students with Special Educational Needs
Supports for students are constantly being cut. Resources are being cut. Student welfare is being cut. And in the middle of all this the minister is trying to sell us a flawed product. And she is trying to sell us something when our resources are being decimated.
The new Junior Cycle Programme is flawed.
One of the sad things about this situation is that the unions and the National Council for Curricular Awards (NCCA) had agreed a new Junior Cert in 2011. All this trouble could have been avoided.
However, even if the Minister accepts our principle that teachers should not correct their own students’ work, and proceeds ahead with a productive vision of a new Junior Cycle, then she would then need to provide the proper resources to implement it.
The Junior Cert is flawed. It does need to be revised, rebuilt. But it needs to be done properly. The current programme is not the way forward.
And that is why we teachers will again go on strike next week.
Next week I will stand proudly with my colleagues and we will make our opposition to the minister’s plans known.
More articles on the New Junior Cert: