Risk of 10% penalty for junior cycle students lifted after ASTI decision

Union says new guidelines mean principle of ‘independent assessment’ will be upheld

The reformed junior cycle aims to record a wider range of students’ skills than can be captured by written exams. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The reformed junior cycle aims to record a wider range of students’ skills than can be captured by written exams. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) has said it will cooperate with new assessment guidelines, removing the risk of junior cycle English students incurring a 10 per cent penalty in their summer exams.

In a statement on Thursday, the trade union - which has been in a long-running dispute with the Department of Education and Skills over junior cycle reforms - said it welcomed an intervention by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) earlier this week.

The reformed junior cycle aims to record a wider range of students’ skills through two classroom-based assessments in which teachers assess their own students’ performance.

In addition, students must complete a final assessment task in the classroom – worth 10 per cent of their examination – in which they are asked to reflect on their learning in the second classroom-based assessment. This task is marked externally by the State Examination Commission.

Under its new guidelines, the commission said students could complete this final assessment task even if their teachers did not mark their second classroom-based assessment.

The ASTI said the guidelines meant that students would have access to 100 per cent of their marks, while the principle on “independent assessment” would be upheld.

Union president Ed Byrne said the SEC’s decision took into account the ASTI’s view that teachers should not be involved in the assessment of their own students for the junior cycle.

“We believe it is vital that all elements of junior cycle assessment are undertaken in a fair, impartial and transparent manner,” said Mr Byrne.

Following a meeting on Thursday, the ASTI standing committee said ASTI members would be advised to cooperate with the new guidelines issued from the SEC.

“Children get one chance to go through second-level education and it is important that we get reform right. We will continue our campaign to ensure sound reform of the junior cycle,” said Mr Byrne.

“We welcome different modes of assessment including practicals, orals and portfolio work. These reduce the burden on students arising from one final written exam. But in order to maintain our high-standards state exams system which is valued by students, their parents and teachers, all assessment components must be treated in same manner as written exams.”

Tens of thousands of students – typically those in voluntary secondary schools – have not taken part in classroom-based assessments due to the ASTI dispute.

The union’s opposition to the changes stems mainly from its belief that teachers should not have to mark their students’ work for state exams.

Previously, students sat two exam papers for junior cycle English which were marked externally.