Classroom-based assessments


Sir, – From Carl O’Brien’s article “Fee-school teachers criticised over refraining from junior cycle reform” (January 26th), I note that Rose Callan, president of the National Parents Council (Post-Primary) has called on ASTI teachers, in relation to our refusal to engage in classroom-based assessments which are currently intrinsic to junior cycle reform and which contribute to 10 per cent of a student’s final mark, to “stop using our children as pawns”. Chess is a game with two players; natural justice would suggest that Ms Callan should, at the very least, show equal ire to both parties involved.

The Government could easily, however, decide to assess the junior cycle English exams of those students with ASTI teachers out of 100 per cent rather than 90 per cent next June, and thus ensure these students remain unaffected by the dispute.

There is precedence for such a move: currently students who do not partake in school-based oral assessment for the languages they’re taking have their final state exams marked out of 100 per cent rather than 60 per cent. The ASTI has less room for manoeuvre in the matter: logically, one can’t both oppose classroom-based summative assessment and implement it at the same time.

The Government isn’t making this simple call and is keeping students on what Ms Callan calls “the frontline” because it is engaged in bringing the ASTI to heel. And, unfortunately, it seems it can rely on groups like the National Parents Council to help in this process.

In any case, the unfair implication is that the ASTI and its members are against reform per se. This is simply not the case. I am for reform generally, and for some of the specific reforms of new junior cycle English. I am, however, against enough of the Government’s current reform proposals to oppose their unilateral implementation. And, as a responsible professional with over 20 years of experience, and on behalf of my future students, I am supporting my union’s opposition to them. – Yours, etc,


Stillorgan,Co Dublin.

Sir, – It was with some disappointment that I read your article that focused on how teachers in a “fee-school” were “failing” to implement changes to the Junior Cycle assessments.

While the rights of workers are under attack in many parts of the world, we should be careful to protect their democratic right to be a member of a trade union and to defend their right to pursue reasonable working conditions.

Here in Germany, the trade union movement has a long tradition of defending the rights of workers through mutual respect and negotiation with employers.

Taking pot-shots at teachers who are simply doing what their union requests in the search for a negotiated solution is regrettable. Union workers in non-fee-paying schools are also part of this movement for fair working conditions. – Yours, etc,


Haimhausen, Germany.