Around 800 secondary school teachers in Donegal are on strike today in a protest against changes to the way the Junior Certificate is administered.

The dispute is not about pay or resources but is about a change that will see teachers having to assess their own students as part of the marking process.

The teachers are members of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland the Teachers’ Union of Ireland.

Unions want external moderators and feel the new changes may not be as fair and open to criticism.

Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan has called the action "disproportionate".

Trade union leaders have said it is a measure of how seriously teachers judge the situation.

Teachers represented by ASTI and TUI are concerned that aspects of the proposals pose a threat to education standards, fairness and quality. Teachers also have concerns about current system capacity to accommodate such major change.

“Teachers care deeply about the education system that they work in and the students they teach,” said ASTI President Philip Irwin. “They are reluctantly taking strike action today in protest at what they see as a significant threat to education standards and education quality in Ireland. However, we are open to further engagement with the Minister on this issue in an effort to seek a solution. We still believe it is possible to improve Junior Cycle education while maintaining the integrity of the education system.”  

“Teachers fully recognise the importance of not relying exclusively on a terminal examination,” said TUI President Gerry Quinn. “Project, portfolio and practical work already form a significant part of many subjects, but, crucially, all elements are assessed externally. We are prepared to consider the extension of this practice provided it is done in a way which does not create more pressure on students. We have made clear our position that education standards must be maintained. We are prepared to work in partnership with the Minister to find mutually acceptable ways to implement sound educational change.”

Talks between the teacher unions and the Minister for Education and Skills two weeks ago failed to resolve the impasse over the Framework for Junior Cycle.

A second stoppage in January is also planned.

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