A MOTION proposing the adoption of a class size limit, Leaving Certificate review, junior cycle reform, and job prospects and pay for young teachers will feature on the agenda at the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) annual conference.
Approximately 450 second-level teachers from Cork and across the country will attend the two-day online ASTI annual convention, which begins tomorrow.
Cork woman Ann Piggott will be stepping down from her role as ASTI president this year.
Speaking to The Echo ahead of the conference, Ms Piggott said she was “honoured and privileged” to represent the ASTI members over the past year and said it was a notably busy tenure.
“It was one incident after the next — I finished with one thing and something else erupts. It was very busy,” Ms Piggott said.
The latest issue to concern the ASTI members was the revelation of changes to the Covid-19 vaccination prioritisation list, which was announced last week.
“We weren’t even told,” she said. “We heard about it on the news.”
Ms Piggott said a lot of teachers were shocked by the announcement.
She said a lot of older teachers with underlying conditions are worried about going back to school next Monday after the Easter holidays.
Among the issues to be discussed over the two-day ASTI conference are class sizes and teachers’ concerns that larger than average class sizes in Ireland are affecting pupils’ education.
The conference will hear debates and discuss motions proposing the adoption of a class size limit for both general and practical subjects.
A review of the Leaving Certificate is also on the agenda.
Ms Piggott said there had been a lot of talk about rejigging the examinations which she said was, for the most part, a fair and transparent process.
“We are not against reform, in any way, but we want it to be meaningful. We don’t want to throw away the good elements of what we have. There may be criticisms regarding too much emphasis on rote learning, but subjects have changed over the years, there have been changes and many subjects now have practical exams.”
Ms Piggott said the union would like to see all the modern languages having oral exams, but in terms of a complete overhaul, they wouldn’t be too happy about that.
“Particularly if it is based on the junior cycle, we wouldn’t be too happy about that. The junior cycle underwent a huge metamorphosis and teachers don’t think it’s the best change that could have been made.”
Ms Piggott said there was now additional material to cover throughout the year and more time needed for class-based assessments.
The conference will also see ASTI members debate how to improve education policy and the need to ensure the voice of teachers is heard.
Discussions will also focus on the terms and conditions of teachers’ employment, while the treatment of recently qualified teachers will also be debated, including the high cost of the professional masters in education and its impact on diversity within the teaching profession.
This debate includes motions proposing negotiation with the Department of Education on payment for student teachers carrying out teaching work.
An additional motion will propose minimum working hours for part-time and newly qualified teachers.
“A lot of teachers also have other work, working in pubs and shops, over the summer and during holidays and that was the only work they could rely on. Whereas now, they don’t even have access to that type of work at the moment,” Ms Piggott said.
“For a new teacher looking for a permanent job, it is quite difficult.”
Investment in education will feature over the two days of the ASTI annual convention. This will include motions calling for improved resourcing of special needs education.
Vice president Eamon Dennehy, who is from Laois, will be the next ASTI president and will take up the role from August.