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We need agreement, not confrontation to end teachers strike - Adams

21 January, 2015 - by Gerry Adams

 Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams, speaking during tonight’s Sinn Féin PMB in the Dáil on the crisis over the Junior Cycle and tomorrow’s teachers strike, reminded the Minister for Education that Sinn Féin is currently involved the “most far reaching and deep rooted radical reform of education in the north since partition”.

Gerry Adams said:

“First under Martin McGuinness and then Caitriona Ruane, and now under John O Dowd the positive impact of that reform is evident in the significantly improving proportion of students achieving 5 GSCE’s at grades A star to C. For boys the increase over ten years has been 24%. For girls the increase has been 17%.

“The education budget has also significantly increased as have the numbers of school building projects that are underway. Last year the school budgets increased by 20% to £1.1 billion.

“The Irish medium sector is the fastest growing sector in the north with almost 3000 pupils in 39 schools. More money has been invested in integrated education under Sinn Féin than ever before.

“All of these positive achievements are evidence of what can be done when the political will exists and there is a commitment to improving educational opportunities for all of our young people. That ethos and approach is desperately needed in this state at this time.

“When I raised this issue with the Taoiseach this morning during Leaders Questions he acknowledged that teachers are professionals. That means that they are the experts - the specialists. And yet the Taoiseach and the Minister for Education refuse to listen to teachers genuine concerns about being forced to assess 40% of their own student’s Junior Cycle for certification purposes.

“The government has been inflexible in its demand that the teaching unions sign up to its assessment proposition. The government is effectively imposing a veto over the negotiations. This is not the way to resolve this very important issue.

“The teachers don’t want to strike. They know that the strike, the second since last December, will cause significant disruption for almost 30,000 teachers; for over 330,000 students, and for their families.

“The government should step back from its current position. There is a need for the Minister to rethink her approach to the assessment issue and to the teaching unions and teachers.

“We need agreement, not confrontation. We need meaningful discussions, not vetoes and intransigence. An agreement must be found. It cannot be achieved without the willing co-operation and positive engagement and enthusiasm of teachers.

“I would urge the Minister to return to the negotiating table – tomorrow –Friday – as soon as possible. And let teachers get back to doing what they are best at – teaching our children.”

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