ASTI and Department of Education meet to discuss Junior Cycle reforms

The union continues to implement a ban on classroom-based assessments

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Photo: Rollingnews.ie

Talks between officials from the Education Department and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) are taking place again today to discuss reforms to the Junior Cycle.

Last month, Minister for Education Richard Bruton asked the union to end its opposition to the reform to ensure thousands of students don't lose 10% in their English exams next summer.

The new junior cycle, which replaces the Junior Certificate, is being rolled out across all secondary schools this year and seeks to provide a much broader assessment of students’ achievements.

However, the biggest secondary teachers’ union, the ASTI, has directed members not to take part in any classroom-based assessments linked to the changes. This means up to 40,000 students – or two out of three junior cycle students – will have their exams marked out of 90 rather than 100%.

"It is within the Minister’s gift to act to ensure that students will not be deprived of 10% of marks if they do not participate in classroom-based assessments in Junior Cycle English", the ASTI said in a statement last month. "There is already a model in operation in schools whereby students who do not participate in optional oral exams in Junior Cycle languages have their written exams marked out of 100%. 

"Given this long standing practice, the ASTI calls on the Minister to allay the concerns of students and their parents and confirm that Junior Cycle exam results will not be affected in any way."

The ASTI continues to direct members not to take part in any classroom-based assessments linked to the changes. This means up to 40,000 students – or two out of three junior cycle students – will have their exams marked out of 90 rather than 100%.

The union's main opposition to the junior cycle changes stems primarily from its belief that teachers should not have to assess their students’ work for State exams. It says there is scope for a compromise based on optional oral exams in the Junior Cert.

Junior cycle students studying English face two classroom-based assessments, one of which was due to have been conducted last May. Due to the dispute, schools have been given a second chance to complete this by the end of last month. Students are due to complete a second classroom-based assessment by early December, which is a collection of students’ writing, followed by a written reflection on their learning.

"No child should be punished nor their exam marks put on a negotiating table"

The State Examinations Commission has said it cannot award marks for a mandatory component – in this case an assessment task – which is not submitted to the commission for assessment.

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne said last month before an Oireachtas committee meeting on education: "No child should be punished nor their exam marks put on a negotiating table.”

The new curriculum will be taught as the ban does not extend to this area.

Minister Bruton outlined 550 additional jobs arising from Junior Cycle professional time in Budget 2017. Implementation of Junior Cycle reform is to be supported with the introduction of 22 hours’ professional time for teachers involved in delivering the curriculum.