Parents to get lessons ahead of changes to Junior Cert
Published 16/06/2014 | 02:30
PARENTS will get lessons on the new-style Junior Cert as their children prepare for major changes in the way they are taught and assessed.
About 60,000 children transferring to second level in September will be at the forefront of the most ground-breaking reform in Irish education in decades.
Starting this week, education chiefs are hosting a series of meetings where they will talk directly to parents of sixth class children in local schools about what is involved.
But they are taking place against a backdrop of an ongoing dispute between the teacher unions and Education Minister Ruairi Quinn over elements of the reform plan.
The meetings, facilitated by the national parents' councils at primary and post-primary level, are in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway, and further sessions will be held in the autumn.
Meanwhile, the Education Minister is expected to invite the unions to a meeting over the next couple of weeks in a bid to break the deadlock.
At the moment, the only definite change happening in September is the roll-out of a new syllabus in English, the first subject to be revised.
Phase one of the reform programme was also supposed to include an option for schools to introduce "short courses", in subjects such as computer coding, from September.
But teacher unions have banned co-operation with short courses, for the moment at least.
At the root of union opposition is the move to replace the traditional Junior Certificate, run by the State Examinations Commission, with a system of teachers assessing their own students for a new school-based Junior Cycle Student Award.
Mr Quinn is adamant that getting rid of the Junior Cert is the cornerstone of the reforms.
The criticism of the traditional Junior Cert is that it encourages rote learning.
But many teachers fear that assessing their own students will compromise teacher-pupil relationships, expose them to pressure from parents, and cause standards to drop.
While the teachers' unions have agreed to teach the new English syllabus, their current position is that they will not assess their own students in it when the time comes in 2016.
As well as non co-operation with the short courses in the autumn, the teacher unions have also banned further involvement in other activities related to the new plan.