Teachers 'won't bow to parent exam pressure'
EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn said teachers should be able to withstand any pressure from parents when it comes to awarding grades to their own pupils under the new-style Junior Cert.
Mr Quinn was speaking after thousands of second-level teachers staged a lunchtime protest in opposition to some of the reforms planned for Junior Cycle pupils, starting in September.
At the heart of much of the teacher resistance is the abolition of the traditional Junior Certificate exams and their replacement with assessment by teachers of their own pupils for a new certificate called the Junior Cycle Students Award (JCSA), to be issued by schools.
Many teachers fear it will change their role from advocate to judge and jury and expose them to undue pressure and criticism from parents.
But Mr Quinn said teachers are "highly professional" and as things stood "parents do not come and give out about the marks awarded to their children in the second-year Christmas exams.
"Teachers are professional enough to withstand it," he said.
Teachers also warn that the objectivity of the state exams and independently awarded certificate will be lost with a switch to teacher assessment, which will lead to a variation in standards between schools.
Mr Quinn said guidance would be provided by the State Examinations Commission and others and it would not be a case of almost 750 schools "going in different directions".
Yesterday's protest did not disrupt classes, but teacher opposition to the Junior Cycle reform plans could yet have an impact on schools and their pupils.
Both second-level teacher unions, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), are balloting members on industrial action and the results will be known on March 26. The TUI is also asking its members to vote on possible strike action.
ASTI president Sally Maguire, who attended the protest outside Newpark Comprehensive School, Blackrock, Co Dublin, said teachers wanted a fair, transparent, objective and equitable exams process for Junior Cycle students.
She said anything less had "the potential to seriously undermine education standards and to exacerbate inequalities between students and schools".
TUI president Gerard Craughwell, who also participated in the protest, said Ireland enjoyed the highest level of public satisfaction with the education system and schools, and such trust would be put at risk with the planned discontinuation of external assessment at Junior Cycle level.
He also said there remained an unacceptable lack of concrete information about how the new programme would work in practice.
"With less than six months before implementation is scheduled to begin, this is nowhere near good enough. Change for which adequate preparation has not been made can cause lasting damage to the education system and the educational experience of students," he added.