Teachers in Ireland are moving closer to strike action over government plans to introduce 'reform' which has neither been properly consulted on nor funded. Leaders of the two main unions ASTI and TUI are meeting to decide on further action which will probably include a strike early in December. The changes to the Junior Cycle certificate system would see teachers having to assess exams instead of external examiners.

Teachers are angry that the changes are being introduced without listening to classroom practitioners, who understand what works and what does not. They say that the changes to the exam system are likely to lead to unfairness between school and school. Moreover English teachers, who are the first to have to implement them, have only had one day's training to do so.

The situation is exacerbated considerably by the low funding in education. Ireland has been in the eye of the austerity storm in Europe, with massive cuts to public spending including education, and teachers have been in the forefront of anti-cuts campaigns. Many teachers work in oversized classes and this, coupled with a lack of resources, leads to considerable stress. It is against this background that these changes are being introduced.

As is so often the case, the government attempts to promote its case by demonising teachers. A students leader is reported as saying that students, "deserve a modern learning experience, one that promises them real skills, instead of providing us with the ability to rote-learn". A teacher responded to a similar attack earlier this year as follows, 'I’m tired of being told that (the reform's) reason for being is it replaces the rote learning I’m drilling into my students every day. That’s an insult to any English teacher who stands in front of students having a conversation with them every day: a conversation about poetry, prose or fiction; a conversation about what it means to be a good writer, or how to communicate with each other.'