Junior cycle students to lose out as ASTI resists reforms

Students who do not sit a second classroom-based test next year will lose out

A total of 10 per cent of the final junior cycle will be based on a written assessment task – which is linked to the second classroom-based assessment. Photograph: The Irish Times

A total of 10 per cent of the final junior cycle will be based on a written assessment task – which is linked to the second classroom-based assessment. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Thousands of junior cycle students in schools staffed by members of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) will automatically lose 10 per cent in their English exams next year if the union maintains its opposition to long-promised education reforms.

The first classroom-based assessments linked to the reformed junior cycle are due to get under way in hundreds of secondary schools from today.

However, they are only taking place in about one out of three secondary schools.

This is due to a directive by the country’s biggest secondary teachers’ union which bans members from taking part in any assessments.

If the union’s opposition to the reformed junior cycle remains, students in these schools will miss out on a second classroom-based assessment in English due to take place next year.

A total of 10 per cent of the final junior cycle will be based on a written assessment task – which is linked to the second classroom-based assessment.

New approaches

The classroom-based assessments in English taking place today and over the next three weeks require students to research and present a three-minute oral communication task.

By combining classroom assessments with a traditional written exam at the end of third year, the “junior cycle profile of achievement” aims to give parents a broader and clearer picture of their child’s progress.

Dr Pádraig Kirk, director of junior cycle training support services, confirmed that students who do not have a second classroom-based assessment will miss out on 10 per cent of marks.

“The assessment task is directly linked to the second classroom-based assessment in third year,” he said.

“So, a student can’t undertake this task if they haven’t completed the second classroom-based assessment. It is our wish that all students will be able to do it and have a full junior cycle profile of achievement.”

Classroom-based assessments are taking places only in schools fully or partly staffed by Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) members, which signed up to the reforms last year.

Ban

Despite the union’s ban on teachers playing any role in classroom-based assessments, all teachers will be required to teach the new junior cycle curriculum.

Implementation of the changes is gathering momentum, according to the department.

More than 8,000 teachers have engaged with training programmes to date. Last week alone, it says, it received double the numbers anticipated at some training sessions.

This latest development comes amid concern among some ASTI members that the union is in danger of losing younger members over its resistance to reform, especially in dual-union schools.

Delegates at the annual ASTI convention in Cork last month voted to re-state their opposition to the changes by directing members not to co-operate in any form of classroom-based assessments linked to the State exam.

However, some union members expressed concern that its stance was placing major pressure on members in dual-union schools and would harm the employment prospects of younger members.