Teachers’ unions have expressed “serious concern” over plans for the Leaving Cert and use of calculated grades for students.
While both the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) expressed disappointment, neither union has yet rejected the plan.
The TUI said that while some of its key concerns had been addressed, it said the decision to apply marks awarded for oral and practical exams only to those completing the exams is “regrettable and regressive”.
It says these marks should also be applied to those availing of calculated - or “accredited” - grades.
It said the decision is likely to hurt the credibility of the accredited grades process and reduce the numbers who will sit the Leaving Cert exams.
“As public health advice supports the holding of oral and practical assessments, it would appear that, in respect of this issue, administrative convenience trumped educational considerations,” it said.
The union said ongoing engagement with education authorities is essential to ensuring the views and concerns of teachers are central to this process and that the professional integrity of teachers is protected.
Teachers will find it very challenging to award predicted grades to students due to a lack of “credible data” , the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) has warned.
Reacting to the Government’s plan for the 2021 Leaving Cert, the ASTI expressed “bitter disappointment” that the predicted grades process will not include externally assessed elements such as orals, coursework or projects.
It said the fact that students who avail of these predicted grades cannot take part in coursework, project work or orals was a “regrettable injustice”.
The ASTI said it will refer the Minister’s announcement to its executive and consult more widely within the union in the coming days.
However, it said it was “committed to ensuring that ways are found that enable students to progress in their lives in the context of the pandemic”.
The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union welcomed the announcement which it said brought “clarity, choice and compassion” for students.
The ISSU’s education Officer, Alicia O’Sullivan said the union was proud that it had helped deliver choice for students.
“As a stakeholder, we at the ISSU have brought pragmatic and realistic proposals to the table, many of which are evident in today’s announcement. The student voice has been heard in these negotiations, and we will continue to work to ensure that is always the case,” she said.
The union's president Reuban Murray expressed regret, though, that students who opt-in to receive predicted grades will not receive them before the written exams.
"We had presented proposals and timelines to the advisory group and the State Examinations Commission in an effort to provide these results to students before the written exams. However, it became apparent that this would be an impossible task," he said.
The JMB, the largest second-level management body, also welcomed the Government announcement.
John Curtis, the JMB's general secretary, said: "It is a measured and considered response to a complex issue and to the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves at present and, while not without compromise and challenge, presents us with a pathway forward and gives a welcome clarity of intention to students and to their parents."
Opposition political parties broadly welcomed the announcement which they said respected the views of students.
Sinn Féin’s education spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD said the “active and campaigning voice of students was crucial in forcing the Government to make this decision.”
He said his party had some concerns regarding the Government’s proposal such as the use of algorithms to determine students’ predicted grades.
Labour's education spokesman Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD said: "Students' voices have been heard. Labour will work with Government to make Leaving Cert 2021 work for students."
The Social Democrats education spokesman Gary Gannon TD said the system was complicated and will require better communication from the Minister and her department.
“There also needs to be contingency built into the plan for the written exams element as there is no guarantee that Covid-19 will be suppressed by June,” he said.