Senior Cycle change must be underpinned by comprehensive consultation
Commenting on the publication of Education in Ireland: An OECD Assessment of the Senior Cycle Review, ASTI President Ann Piggott welcomed the emphasis in the OECD report on stakeholder involvement in education policy.
Teachers must be treated as key stakeholders in any Senior Cycle education change process, said Ms Piggott.
“The report identifies Ireland as having a high performing education system and states that Senior Cycle enjoys high levels of trust,” said Ms Piggott.
“In order to retain these qualities, we must ensure that teachers are central to any change process. Teachers have the professional knowledge and experience to understand the implications of change, including implementation and resource issues”.
The OECD report highlights the need to focus on the requirements for the successful implementation of curriculum change at Senior Cycle. It states that there is a need to learn from the recent Framework for Junior Cycle process. This is critical given that the Framework process proved to be a divisive experience.
“Key issues for teachers during the Framework for Junior Cycle process were the lack of meaningful consultation, inadequate resourcing of schools, and training deficits,” said Ann Piggott. “Teachers still remain uncertain about the outcomes of the Framework for Junior Cycle for students. Education policy is a complex process and it is vital that the policy makers learn from this experience.”
Last year, ASTI-commissioned research* found that issues such as initiative overload, teachers’ work load, and lack of capacity at school level must be addressed before any change at Senior Cycle can take place. It stated that the consideration of implementation issues, including professional resources, has been absent in education policy development in Ireland, most notably in the introduction of the Framework for Junior Cycle.
The research, carried out by Dr Brian Fleming, was critical of aspects of the Senior Cycle Review consultative process and found that the Cycle 2 process engaged with less than 6% of second-level schools and was highly unlikely to capture the contextual differences across the system to any great degree.
“It is vital that changes to Senior Cycle are properly resourced given that Ireland comes 36th out of 36 OECD countries in terms of investment in second-level education as a proportion of GDP,” said ASTI President Ann Piggott.
“Change at Senior Cycle can have significant consequences for young people’s experience of second-level education, their post-school options, and their future life chances”.
*Making Education Policy Work (ASTI/ Dr. Brian Fleming, 2019)