Education Secretary Norma Foley warned she would fight with teachers’ unions over changes to the Leaving Cert designation

The teachers unions will today draw their battle lines over the Leaving Cert reforms.

Education Secretary Norma Foley will continue her round of teacher conferences, defending her plans for the test’s most radical overhaul since its inception nearly 100 years ago

Yesterday, at the Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) Annual Conference, she received a strong warning not to push change without proper advice and consent.

Ms Foley’s Senior Cycle Reform Package is a key issue at the ASTI and Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) conferences.

Each will discuss motions today that will set out their position on the discussions on how to implement the proposed changes.

A major sticking point for the unions is the move to require teachers to grade their own students for 40 percent of grades in each subject – something they are opposed to in principle.

The TUI application warns against opposing the introduction of teacher-based assessment for state certification purposes.

It also warns against a vote on industrial action if certain commitments and resources they are seeking to support the changes are not met.

A motion at the ASTI conference raises the prospect of the union refusing to participate in the discussions until a “full, open and transparent study of the Junior Cycle has been conducted and its findings published”.

Ms Foley caught a whiff of union anger while attending the ASTI conference yesterday. She will contact TUI today.

Outgoing ASTI President Eamon Dennehy warned that any change must be incremental and only come through negotiation and agreement.

He reminded the minister that during the pandemic, teachers were made special commitments when assessing their own students for the Leaving Cert for the first time. They were told it was only because of the extraordinary circumstances.

“We took those words in good faith,” he said. “We consider any attempt to reverse these commitments made to our members, who have acted out of a sense of duty and commitment to their students, to be unacceptable and counterproductive. Let me say, as the collective voice of teachers: there can be no change in our working conditions without negotiation.

“The cost of conducting senior cycle reform without proper research and reflection could be very high and result in a decline in the standard, status and credibility of our second stage education system.

“Politicians must tread carefully when it comes to changing the Leaving Cert.”

Ms Foley promised that teachers would be at the heart of the reform process.

She said the whole impetus of reform is to ensure that “our students will be empowered to meet the challenges of the 21st century”.

Ms Foley added she wanted to applaud the “excellent work” of the teachers in finding a way forward for Leaving Cert students in 2020 and 2021.

However, there was no comparison with recognized grades or calculated grades during the pandemic, she emphasized: “The grade there was 100 percent awarded by the teacher – that is not and will not be the case in the upper school. ”

Teachers would be co-designers of the new specifications for each subject, she said. Education Secretary Norma Foley warned she would fight with teachers’ unions over changes to the Leaving Cert designation

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