Europe

Irish secondary schools closed due to teachers' strike

Secondary schools across the Republic of Ireland are closed on Tuesday due to a teachers' strike.

The industrial action follows a long-running dispute over proposed reforms to the Junior Cycle - the exam system used for pupils aged between 12 and 15.

The strike has been organised by the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI).

They object to teachers assessing their own pupils for a state qualification.

External examiners

The state broadcaster, RTÉ, estimated that about 27,000 post-primary teachers are taking part in the strike, resulting in about 350,000 pupils having to take the day off.

The dispute centres on a government proposal to change the way children's schoolwork is examined and assessed during the early years of post-primary education.

At present, students usually begin the Junior Cycle at age 12 and take the Junior Certificate examination after three years.

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan has supported a plan to introduce a 40% school- based assessment, with the final exam accounting for 60% of the Junior Cert result.

However, talks broke down several weeks ago after unions objected to plans for teachers to assess their own students for Junior Cycle certification.

They want every element of the state qualification to be assessed by external examiners, not by the pupils' own schoolteachers.

'Fairness'

ASTI and TUI said they were concerned the plans posed "a threat to education standards, fairness and quality".

Last week, TUI president Gerry Quinn said: "A system of teachers assessing their own students for state exam purposes will significantly change the relationship between the teacher and student."

The minister said she was "disappointed at both unions' decision to take strike action".