‘No guarantee’ Leaving Cert will proceed this summer, teachers’ union tells members

TUI says exams will not proceed if public health advice says it is not safe to do so

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland has said “there is not and there cannot” be a guarantee that rescheduled dates for the Leaving Cert will hold. Photograph

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland has said “there is not and there cannot” be a guarantee that rescheduled dates for the Leaving Cert will hold. Photograph

 

There is no guarantee the Leaving Cert will proceed in late July or early August despite the Government’s decision to press ahead with the exams, a teachers’ union has told its members.

In a nine-page advisory document, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has said “there is not and there cannot” at this stage be a guarantee that the rescheduled date for the exams will hold.

“That will entirely depend upon the advice to be given by the health authorities in early June...If the advice is that it is not safe, they will not proceed. Everything is subject to considerations of public health,” the document states.

It says health considerations will focus not just on the risk of infection spreading between students, but to families, school staff and the broader community.

In addition, risks surrounding transport and students’ congregating before or after exams will need to be factored in.

The union has also clarified advice for members over what level of teaching support they are expected to provide to Leaving Cert students over the coming months.

It says it has “not been suggested that teachers should continue the current remote provision of tuition into and through June and July”.

Instead, it says, the school term will finish on May 29th and the Minister for Education Joe McHugh has asked that everyone at that point take a break for two weeks.

“He has asked that a line of contact with schools/teachers be available remotely after these two weeks, not for the purpose of teaching remotely as you do during term time but to maintain a link with Leaving Certificate students and help iron out issues or queries that they may have,” the document states.

It is then expected that, from mid-July, there will be two weeks of school-based engagement for final year Leaving Cert students.

The TUI says it is strongly of the view that all teachers - where possible - should turn up to school during the time.

It will not be possible for a teacher of a Leaving Cert class of 30 students to have all those students in a classroom at one time due to social distancing.

Therefore, the union says, additional teachers will be needed to supervise these students, offer them support in areas such as study skills and/or otherwise assist them.

The union says there will be “perfectly valid reasons” why some teachers cannot return to school at that time.

“We will, of course, make representations on behalf of such members to ensure that they are accommodated.”

The union also says it has expressed serious concerns over disengagement by some students, particularly those with poor access to devices or broadband and those for whom conditions for study at home is a challenge.

“Consideration is being given as to how contact with these students can best be maintained and how they can be supported,” he said.

The TUI also says it has been given a written guarantee that remote teaching and learning will cease when the public health emergency measures are over.

The rise in use of online teaching due to closure of schools has resulted in speculation that it could become a permanent feature of how students are taught in future.

However, the TUI has told members that the Department of Education confirmed that the current approach has been introduced on a temporary basis.

“The department has acknowledged the great work being undertaken by teachers to maintain teaching and learning during this unprecedented time of a national health emergency and has confirmed, in writing, to the unions that a precedent will not be established,” the union document, circulated to members, says.

“The department has stated ‘it is accepted that such temporary measures are being operated by staff on a without prejudice basis and will not be used in any way by the department as a precedent in any subsequent industrial relations discussions’,” according to the union.

The TUI, which has 19,000 members, represents second level teachers working mostly in vocational schools, community colleges and comprehensive schools.

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