Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue TD has called on teachers’ unions to pull back from further industrial action, and has criticised the Government for allowing the current impasse on Junior Cert reform to develop.

Deputy McConalogue commented, “This Government’s botched handling of negotiations between the Department and teachers is the main reason we have reached this stalemate.  Former Minister Ruairi Quinn’s approach to the situation was dictatorial and arrogant, and was central to the breakdown of relations.  His decision to scrap the proposals by the NCCA working group on Junior Cert reform and embark on a personal crusade to abolish the State exam undermined the process and showed a lack of respect for the work that had been undertaken.

“Minister Quinn’s solo run soured relations between the Department and teachers groups, and serious mistrust still remains.  Despite strenuous opposition to his proposals, the Government took the decision to press ahead with the new Junior Cycle in September 2014 against a backdrop of non-cooperation by teachers.

“The appointment of Jan O’Sullivan as Minister for Education represented a fresh opportunity for the Government to engage meaningfully with teachers and adopt an approach that would best serve Junior Cert students.  However, despite adopting the updated proposals put forward by the NCCA working group on Junior Cert reform, Minister O’Sullivan has refused to take on board the genuine concern among teachers relating to the 40% continuous assessment and project work process.

“Instead of postponing the commencement of the new English curriculum for a year while negotiations continued, the Minister pushed ahead with the new Junior Cycle in the absence of agreement.  It was at this point that teachers unions began balloting for strike action.

“Fianna Fáil has always been consistent in promoting the need for reform and indeed initiated the process while in Government.  We are now calling on the Minister and teachers unions to re-engage without preconditions in a bid to find a workable solution to the current impasse.  These reforms are aimed at improving the learning experience for secondary school students.   The botched handling of this very important reform process must not be allowed prevent progress on delivering an improved educational experience for students at junior cycle”.