The ASTI Need To Get This One Thing Right For Once. 2

So I was reading this Irish Times the other day when I came across this nugget from Carl O’Brien which helps illustrate my argument below.

Carl writes,

“The proposal states that students could undertake an assessment task – worth 10 per cent of marks – over the coming months in exchange for the union dropping its ban on co-operation with classroom-based assessments” (CBA, added). (my emphasis)

I took this to read that if the ASTI dropped its ban on cooperating with CBAs, students in ASTI schools could sit their assessment task later than provided for.

However, the key words in the quote are ‘in exchange’. This obviously indicates that this was an offer to the ASTI.

I have a major problem with this.

Examination Assessment is the government’s monkey, not the ASTI’s. Notwithstanding exceptions made in other situations, students being able to sit assessments under the governments new Junior Cycle programme is something the government wants, in the first instance. (of course teachers want this too but…..).

The idea that students in ASTI schools will only be able to do the assessment IF the ASTI gets with the government’s programme is tantamount to emotional blackmail. (You may feel more strongly than me on this).

Naturally, I think it is despicable that the government would use students as a pawn in this way.

This all highlights a key problem with the ASTI. While they have an excellent Press Office, they NEED a professional, dedicated PR agency to prepare and manage the ground before and during the campaign. Of course, now it may be too late. I know some may disagree on the importance of this. But one need only think back to the 2001 campaign and the awful spectacle of Charlie Lennon sandwiched between Miriam O’Callaghan and The NPCPP representative on Prime Time. My feelings at the time was that Charlie was bullied. But a professional PR team would not have allowed that situation to arise. I think that was a pivotal moment in that campaign.

But in case you are unconvinced….

Several non-teachers have asked me about ‘the whole equal pay for equal work thing’. Their understanding from the media is that the ASTI wants new entrants to be paid the same as experienced teachers, that is, a 23 year old should be paid the same as a 43 year old. This is not the case. I explained to them that what we were seeking was (ultimately) equal pay scales. This was follwoed by an ‘Ohhh…I get it’.

So the message is not/was not being picked up correctly.

It doesn't matter what the message is if you're not getting it across.

It doesn’t matter what the message is if you’re not getting it across.

Still not convinced?

RTE as the National Broadcaster has an obligation to be fair and balanced to both sides of a debate. Sean O’Rourke gave a lengthy slot to Brian Mooney on why he was leaving the ASTI (albeit after 40 years). Now, maybe I missed it, but I didn’t hear or come across an ASTI reposte to this piece of what I feel was clearly propaganda. Why didn’t the ASTI insist on a slot of equal length to counter Mooney?

Still not convinced?

Have a look at where Donald Trump gets his news or read about the influence of fake news sites on the US election and even how dangerous it can get. The link to the Economist article also highlights the importance of a Social Media Strategy in communicating a campaign message.

The point is, you can have the best reason in the world for your grievances, your case may be as sound and reasonable as they come, but if it is not communicated well enough and often enough, it is hard to maintain support for your position.

The ASTI needs to think strategically about its communications. For this, it needs a professional PR team. For sure, the government has one.

I may be wrong, I maybe right, you might think differently. If it’s civil, comment below.

Here’s  a video to break up the monotony.

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2 thoughts on “The ASTI Need To Get This One Thing Right For Once.

  • Liam

    Hi Peter,

    I am just curious regarding the blackmail piece.

    I gather that your perspective is the government is the ‘blackmailer’, so to speak. I am curious about your perspective on this. Could you elaborate further?

    I am wondering if it is possible to view it from the other perspective? Non-cooperation with assessment (and preparation for assessment) will, of course, lead to pupils not being able to complete that related component of the assessment.

    It seems there is an alternative choice in mind when the government is positioned as the blackmailer – is there any alternative position for the government to take?
    Maybe that they should allow students to sit the assessment task anyway, somehow? Although they won’t have received the preparation to complete it if it is based on CBA-2. Or maybe that they would ignore that element of the assessment in the final grading? Although the notion that a teacher/school could ‘opt-out’ of certain aspects of a curriculum/assessment structure, at least on the surface, seems troubling to me.

    I would be curious to hear your perspective on this. It would be helpful in informing my own perspective. I like the blog. It certainly challenges my thinking and provides interesting, and well-articulated arguments to consider. So thanks for writing it!


    • peterlydon Post author

      Hi Liam,
      Many thanks for your comment. I am sorry for the delay in replying but various things got in the way of my attention to the blog.

      This is not a criticism of your comment, but I would begin by saying that I haven’t given any ‘perspective’. A perspective is a particular view one holds of something which may be valid but not exclusive, that is, there are other possible views. The classic example is ‘one persons freedom fighter is another persons terrorist’.

      My blog post is set in the context of negotiations to resolve an industrial dispute. It is a perspective that some believe the Junior Cycle should not be part of the negotiations regarding the ASTI stance on Lower-Pay-Scale-Teachers. It is other’s perspective that there should be an attempt to resolve all issues.

      I am compelled to adopt a principled stance and say that all sticking points should be open for discussion but that nothing is resolved until everything is resolved.

      This takes me to the source of the problem. In short, the Junior Cycle Framework was rejected essentially becasue of a lack of trust. I have written about it elsewhere so I won’t go into the details here. Into this mix, the government sought to vary an existing agreement (the HRA) via the LRA. The ASTI saw this for what it is – a breach of contract. And that is notwithstanding the obviously objectionable contents of the LRA.

      It is not a matter of perspective that the government broke its HRA agreement. This is a matter of fact. In this proposal, they are effectively saying that if the ASTI don’t accept the government’s attempt to wriggle out of this responsibility, they will punish students and effectively make it look like the action of the ASTI (that is, the ASTI not accepting the ‘offer’ to allow students sit the 10%).

      All that said, the deal with the Gardai and the bringing forward of the discussions on replacing the LRA vindicates the ASTI position.

      Regarding the assessment, there have been instances in the past where the SEC has discounted aspects of some exams. I understand this was with Oral irish exams but I do not have all the details.

      Regarding the Junior Cycle, it is clear that what started as need to reform the exam has turned into a teacher-retraining scheme with some element of curricular reform (which was already in train before the new Junior Cycle Framework was launched in 2011). The programme is informed by a particular approach to education (Learning Outcomes) which has many benefits but many, and I would say fatal, drawbacks. The notion of ‘opt-out’ is also troubling to me, but if I accept this, I also have to reject the absence of certain minimum common standards. One cannot champion teacher autonomy on the one hand and then complain when they act autonomously!

      I hope this answers your question. Sometimes I miss the nub so feel free to fire back. Peter