Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan has said that she will not row-back on the issue of external assessment and has encouraged teachers to re-engage in talks with her.

The minister's comments come as teachers decide to stage a one-day strike, following talks between teacher trade unions and the Department of Education today.

The protest will take place on 2 December with a possible second day of action planned for January. 

One of the major issues over the changes is the requirement for teachers to assess 40% of their own students' work for the exam that will replace the Junior Certificate.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Minister O'Sullivan said that the planned strike action is "disproportionate" and that she has "moved considerably" to address teachers' concerns.

She said that she is "absolutely convinced" that school-based assessment is needed.

The minister said that she is not questioning motives and feels teachers are "genuinely concerned about something they haven't done before".

The minister said she is willing to engage with teachers in relation to aspects of the new process such as "how it might actually be done within the school." 

Today's meeting between the Department of Education and teacher trade unions follows the breakdown of negotiations this week. 

The presidents of the Association of Secondary Teachers and the Teachers' Union of Ireland warned on Tuesday that strike action in schools is likely.

ASTI President Phillip Irwin said today he regrets the action the unions have decided to take and that it is a last resort.

Mr Irwin told RTÉ's News At One that all secondary teachers are "at one" with the issue of external assessment.

He said teachers are open to further talks with Minister O'Sullivan, but that external assessment is "the standard we want to stick with".

The President of the TUI said that if there is a substitute for the State Exams Commission it will bureaucratise the teaching profession and will take from teaching and learning.

Gerry Quinn told RTÉ's Six One that the anonymity of the external process of the State Exams Commission is a strength.

He reiterated his position that there can be no compromise on "objectivity and independence" in connection with the retention of external assessment at second level.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that he regrets the decision that the teachers have taken.

Mr Kenny said the Minister for Education has already made a lot of concessions.

He added that it was very important that people understood that we're entering a different phase of world development and that the Junior Cert curriculum needed to be changed to ensure that Irish young people would be as well-equipped as possible for the future.

The unions earlier issued a joint statement to welcome the shift in position by the Department of Education on some issues in recent negotiations, but said issues of critical importance were not resolved.

They said: "The threat posed to educational standards by the introduction of internal assessment remains and the issue of the capacity of schools to cope with the magnitude of such change was not addressed by the Department."

They called for direct ministerial intervention in the row.

Both unions, which represent 27,000 second level teachers, already had a strong mandate for industrial action following ballots of membership.

Sources say today's meeting was more about the formalities and the "how" of any proposed industrial action.

Teachers have voiced concerns over reform plans ever since they were first mooted several years ago.

They are refusing to co-operate with aspects of their implementation.