This year's Junior Cert exams for 60,000 students look likely to be cancelled after education authorities confirmed that it will not be possible to hold the exams alongside the Leaving Cert in June.
It seems likely that alternative assessment arrangements will be implemented for Junior Cert students this year, in a similar manner to last year, according to a number of well-placed sources.
The arrangements last year involved allowing schools the freedom to conduct their own assessments, which were marked by students’ teachers.
All students who completed third year received a certification of completion of the junior cycle programme and a report at school level.
The move to cancel the written Junior Cert exams would give teachers and schools additional time to support Leaving Cert students complete oral, practical and performance exams which are due over the coming weeks.
The manner in which these components will be assessed is the focus of discussions between education groups and the Department of Education this week. These “second components” account for between 20 and 50 per cent of marks for some subjects.
In light of the assertion by authorities that Junior and Leaving Cert cannot be held together, the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) has called on Minister for Education Norma Foley to confirm that the traditional Junior Cert exams cannot proceed this year.
The TUI said on Tuesday night that cancelling the exams would prevent “excessive workload and pressure for teachers and school management” who are trying to ensure that Leaving Cert students complete their oral and practical exams and project work.
It said priority must be given to Leaving Cert students to ensure they have “unimpeded access to the necessary school facilities and resources”, such as practical classrooms to complete their studies.
The TUI said it was making the request to cancel the Junior Cert exams on the basis that no precedent would be set and that the exams would be reinstated in 2022.
The union said alternative arrangements introduced for Junior Cert students last year should be reintroduced.
The TUI said these appropriate alternative assessment arrangements should be designed at school level – as was done last year – and to ensure junior cycle students remain productively engaged with learning until the end of the school year.
It said these alternative arrangements should factor in the challenges experienced by students during the periods of school closure arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and be informed by principles of fairness and equity.
The TUI is also seeking immediate clarification on classroom-based assessments for the 2022 junior cycle.
The union said it believes that flexibility is needed that would allow teachers, at school level, the discretion as to whether or not they should proceed, depending on the extent of access to facilities.
Separately, the Government is likely to make an annoucement on the format of the Leaving Cert exams later this week.
It is likely all Leaving Cert students will be given the option of availing of a modified version of calculated grades as well as sitting the written exams in June.