ASTI executive to meet amid confusion over Leaving Cert exams

Union issues ‘clarification’ saying teachers cannot be forced to work on July exams plan

Tee ASTI has reiterated its “welcome in principle” that the Leaving Cert will go ahead this year. Photograph: Getty Images

Tee ASTI has reiterated its “welcome in principle” that the Leaving Cert will go ahead this year. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The executive of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) is to meet on Tuesday morning amid confusion about teaching arrangements for the delayed Leaving Cert exams.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh announced last week that the exams would go ahead in July. This was followed by a meeting of the ASTI executive on Friday night, after which a statement relating to arrangements for teachers was posted on the ASTI website.

The aim of the statement was to address teachers’ concerns about working in July as some contracts of employment end in May.

Other concerns raised by teachers related to handling of project work associated with the Leaving Cert.

In response to what it said was “a considerable amount of incorrect information” in circulation, the union issued a second statement on Saturday. Referencing one example of this “incorrect information”, the second statement said: “For the record, contrary to misinformation that is circulating no teacher will be required to do anything. The proposal from the Department of Education and Skills cannot be enforced.”

The union reiterated its “welcome in principle” of the announcement that the Leaving Cert exams would go ahead this year. But the statement said the ASTI still had “a number of serious concerns about elements of the announcement, and will be seeking clarifications in relation to these”.

Postponed

A spokeswoman told The Irish Times on Monday that the executive of the union would meet remotely on Tuesday morning, and would seek a meeting later in the week with the Department of Education to clarify matters further.

The outline of the department’s proposal for the Leaving Cert is that it will be postponed to late July and into August .

The department envisages that a two-week period for face-to-face contact will be arranged by schools for their Leaving Cert students.

The department also envisaged that teachers would maintain contact with their Leaving Cert students in the period prior to the two weeks to encourage and motivate students.

A timetable for examinations is expected in June, and will be predicated on the medical advice relating to social distancing at the time.

The department has given a commitment to engage with teachers’ unions on a viable plan for putting arrangements in place.

Meanwhile, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has said that students with underlying health issues, those recently bereaved, with special educational needs or those who were already victims of educational disadvantage must not have their prospects further damaged by the crisis.

TUI President Seamus Lahart said the union will be working closely with the State Examinations Commission and Mr McHugh in the coming weeks.

“What we are currently experiencing is unprecedented and unfortunately there are no perfect solutions to any of the challenges that our society faces. We are acutely aware of the stress that the situation is causing for students, particularly those due to sit the Leaving Certificate,” he said.

“This is a time for solidarity, compassion, flexibility and imaginative thinking,” said Mr Lahart, adding that the health and safety of all students and their teachers was the top priority.