Teachers at secondary schools across Ireland protested this afternoon to highlight their concerns over the introduction of a new junior cycle programme.

Up to 27,000 teachers took part in the lunchtime protest.

Teachers say they want to ensure that any reforms are educationally sound and properly resourced.

The demonstrations were called jointly by the two post-primary teachers' unions - the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland and the Teachers' Union of Ireland.

The Government wants to replace the current Junior Certificate with a programme that has less focus on the exam at the end and more room for independent learning and creativity.

However, teachers have expressed concern over the plans and in particular do not want the current State-awarded certificate to be replaced by a school's certificate.

Both the ASTI and the TUI are currently balloting members on non-cooperation with the proposed changes.

The Department of Education issued a circular to schools yesterday, confirming its intention to begin phasing in the new programme from September.