April deadline for 40,000 Junior Cert pupils to avoid exam penalties

Students could lose 10% in English exams due to ongoing dispute over education reforms

Students taking part in group work as part of the new Junior Cycle curriculum.

Students taking part in group work as part of the new Junior Cycle curriculum.

 

April has been set as a final deadline for up to 40,000 Junior Cert students to complete a classroom-based assessment task and avoid a 10 per cent penalty in their summer exams.

However, students will only have this opportunity if members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) vote next month to support new proposals aimed at averting industrial action.

The assessment task – worth 10 per cent of next summer’s English exam – is aimed at capturing key skills such as teamwork, creativity and managing information.

Union dispute

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has written to principals and teachers this week to alert them to a second window for completion which will be made available between April 24th and 28th.

Students whose English teachers are ASTI members have not been able to complete the task due to a union dispute.

The union has banned its members from co-operating in any way with classroom-based assessments .

ASTI members are due to vote from mid-January onwards on proposals to end the dispute, with a result likely in early February.

Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) members voted last year to accept the reformed junior cycle.

As a result, thousands of pupils in schools where teachers are more likely to be TUI members – typically community and comprehensives or those run by Education and Training Boards – have already completed the assessment task.

As part of the settlement proposals, ASTI members have been assured that teachers will not play any role in assessing their own students for work linked to a State exam.

These assessment tasks will be marked by external examiners.

This year’s third-year students are the first to experience the reformed curriculum for English.

In schools that are fully participating in the reformed curriculum, students have completed two classroom-based assessments.

The first, last May, tested students’ oral communication skills; the second was based on a collection of students’ writing over the past two years.

Compromise proposal

These students faced an assessment task earlier this month, which required them to reflect on what they have learned in this second classroom-based assessment.

Under a compromise proposal, students in schools where their teachers are ASTI members will be only have to complete the second classroom-based assessment and an assessment task.

This, of course, depends on the union backing settlement proposals in next month’s ballot.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton has insisted there is no “plan B” and this is the final chance for students to avoid being deducted 10 per cent in their English exams.

He has said that allowing students to be awarded 10 per cent for an assessment they have not completed would undermine the integrity of the entire exam system.

However, Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne has called on Mr Bruton to ensure children are not penalised through no fault of their own.

He has said that the prospect of students losing marks as a result of this dispute should be taken off the table.