Minister urged to scale down junior reforms to break ‘impasse’

School managers say Junior Cert exam should be retained for trial period

Secondary school managers are urging Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan to scale down the extent of her junior cycle reforms as the threat of strike action by teachers grows.

Instead of having assessments carried out entirely within schools, the Joint Managerial Body (JMB) says more modest proposals which were designed three years ago, after a consultation with stakeholders, should be introduced on a trial basis.

The 2011 plan published by the National Council for Curriculum & Assessment (NCCA) recommended teachers would assess just 40 per cent of students' grades, with the remaining 60 per cent allocated through a terminal exam such as the Junior Cert.

However, former education minister Ruairí Quinn went much further a year later when he announced the abolition of the Junior Cert, and its replacement with a junior cycle award to be assessed and graded by teachers in schools.



The JMB said: “In order to break the impasse created by the attitude of the two teacher unions to the introduction of the Junior Cycle Framework, the Minister should make a decision to revert to the pre-October 2012 NCCA Framework for a five-year period, after which the position will be reviewed.

“Such a decision would mean that 40 per cent of each Junior Cycle examination in each subject will still be assessed by the subject teacher, with the remaining 60 per cent being assessed through a terminal examination paper with existing arrangements prevailing.”

Loss of leadership

The body, which represents management in more than half of the State’s 720 post-primary schools, makes the recommendation in a pre-budget submission which also calls on the Minister to tackle the loss of leadership expertise resulting from a moratorium on filling middle-management posts.

“This has placed exponentially increasing demands on already overburdened school principals,” the JMB said.

The view was shared this week by the Department's chief inspector Dr Harold Hislop, who told a school management conference in Dublin: "We have ended up with principals who are now doing the job of middle management as well".

The Department is reviewing proposals aimed at changing the career path for teachers, and building leadership capacity, ahead of the budget.

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column