The secondary teachers’ union, ASTI, has voted overwhelmingly to hold its strict line on the timing of meetings linked to new in-school Junior Cycle exams.
The union has laid down a marker as discussions continue about the impact of the meetings on daily school life.
The Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) insists that only the minimum amount of time spent at Subject Learning and Assessment Review (SLARS) meetings should be outside normal school hours.
SLARs take place after students undertake classroom-based assessments (CBAs) and provide an opportunity for a group of teachers, over two hours, to share and discuss samples of their students’ work and achieve consistency in grading.
For the first few years of the Junior Cycle reforms English teachers were the only ones involved in, but from next September, teachers of all subjects will be doing them.
The issue has come to ahead because of the sheer number SLARS that will have to be arranged and school leaders warn of impending chaos if the timing issue is not sorted.
The Joint Managerial Board (JMB) representing management in more than half the country’s schools – where the ASTI represents teachers – have warned that they face the loss of a minimum of over 133 hours of tuition time every year.
The agreement on SLARs provides for meetings to be scheduled to start within the timetable, adding “a limited number of meetings may need to draw on teachers’ bundled time to run beyond normal school tuition hours for some of the duration of the meeting”. The ASTI’s existing advice to members stresses the words “limited” and “some of the duration”.
Some principals have tried to schedule SLARS for the half-day that some schools have configured into their timetable, when they would not interfere with teaching, but the ASTI deems that to be outside normal tuition hours.
The ASTI ballot showed 93pc in favour of authorising the union to direct members to only attend SLAR meetings which are in compliance with the agreed arrangements. The turnout was 55pc.
The ASTI said that a ballot was undertaken “because some schools have consistently proposed that the meetings be held outside normal school tuition hours, contrary to the Appendix to the Junior Cycle Reform Joint Statement on Principles and Implementation.”
ASTI president Deirdre Mac Donald said the “ballot sends a clear message that unilateral changes to agreed work arrangements which cause a deterioration in teachers’ terms and conditions will not be tolerated.”
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