Teachers to get 16 days' training for Junior Cert changes
Teachers are to get 16 days off school to train for the new-style Junior Certificate under plans that are expected to end a long-running dispute between unions and the Department of Education.
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan said she had reached agreement with teachers' unions but members will now have to vote on the proposals.
Ms O'Sullivan said the necessary resources and teacher training will be provided to allow for classroom-based assessment of students, which will scale down the importance of the exam.
Substitute teachers are to be hired while existing staff are released from the classroom for up to 16 days of training and implementation.
The new compromise formula avoids giving a percentage weighting to the value of the Junior Cert exam and classroom assessments.
Originally, former minister Ruairi Quinn wanted to totally abolish the Junior Cert and replace it with 100pc classroom assessment.
Ms O'Sullivan, who took over the job last July, had proposed the exam count be 60pc with 40pc going for classroom assessment. But this was rejected by teachers, who moved to take industrial action, including strikes.
Under the final formula, pupils will be awarded a Certificate of Achievement after three years of secondary schooling.
It will include grades from the final examination; classroom assessment; and other broader achievements in culture, sports or other areas.
"This gets away entirely from giving percentages for any of the three sectors," a source close to the process said last night.
Officials said the new agreement on resources will see full-time teachers spending 22 hours of professional time a year on aspects of Junior Cycle implementation.
These time allocations will commence fully in the 2017/18 school year.
In the meantime, teachers of English, which will be the first subject in the new scheme, will be provided with 10 hours professional time in the 2015/16 school year and 14 hours in the 2016/17 school year.
Teachers of science and business, which will follow on in the next academic year, will be provided with eight hours in 2016/17.
The Education Minister welcomed the agreement and said it would benefit pupils who would get a much broader and more relevant assessment of their educational achievements.
"The culture change needed to implement the new curriculum programmes successfully and to embed formative classroom-based assessment is significant," Ms O'Sullivan said.
"I look forward to progressing Junior Cycle reform successfully in collaboration with teachers and school management - and, of course, with parents and students," she added.
Officials at both unions involved, the Teachers' Union of Ireland and the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, said the agreement was reached following talks between union representatives and Education Department officials in recent days and earlier talks in May.
"Both sides signed off on a document on time and workload issues that arise in the context of the implementation of the revised Junior Cycle proposals," a spokesperson for the unions said.
The executive bodies of both unions will meet in late August and a ballot of teachers is to be held after summer holidays in September.