Ruairi Quinn, who was responsible for bringing forward Junior Cycle reform proposals, has said he believes Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan has made a significant breakthrough and recent developments do not represent a climb down by Government.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, the former minister for education said Ms O'Sullivan has made progress in relation to getting people to accept that school assessment is about more than just a single external exam.

He said this was the point of concern.

Mr Quinn said there is a move away from a single one-point-in-time over three years, when the educational fortunes of a young person would be determined by how well they would perform in an examination, to a broader based assessment.

How this is going to be implemented, he said, remains to be seen.

The executive committees of the two secondary teacher unions will meet tomorrow to decide whether to recommend acceptance of the new deal on Junior Cycle reform. 

The agreement was reached after intensive talks this week between union leaders and the Department of Education, which saw the direct intervention of Ms O'Sullivan in discussions on Tuesday.

In identical statements, the ASTI and TUI said their intention would be that a ballot would take place "as early as practicable in autumn 2015", pending the approval of their executive committees. 

Mr Quinn said the efforts towards reform have come a long way.

"I think we had to start somewhere. There had been an absolute block on even beginning the journey, for the last 20 years.

"That journey has now started, teachers' concerns are being addressed."