School managers demand more resources for Junior Cert shake-up
Schools must get more resources if the radical reform of Junior Cycle is not to fail, second-level managers have warned.
They want more middle managers to lead the change, more training for teachers, technology support and – in the early years at least – a system to monitor grades awarded to students by their own teachers.
The focus of the changes is to switch the emphasis from an exam-driven system that encourages rote learning by students to one where teachers assess their own pupils.
It means the gradual phasing out of the traditional State exams in June and the Junior Certificate and replacing it with a Junior Cycle Student Award (JCSA) handed out by schools
The changes – which will be introduced in September – also include new "short courses" in subjects such as Chinese and computer coding and, generally, more interactive teaching and learning, with technology embedded in the process.
The call for more resources was made yesterday by the Joint Managerial Body (JMB), which represents managers in more than half the country's second-level schools.
Second-level school managers across the spectrum have generally welcomed the reforms – including the controversial issue of teachers assessing their own students, to which unions are opposed.
JMB general secretary Ferdia Kelly said that the changes ahead represented an appropriate response to the learning needs of pupils in schools today and into the future. He said there would be exciting challenges for schools, such as the development of relevant school- based short courses and creative approaches to teaching and learning.
Such opportunities had long been absent from the post-primary curriculum, he told the JMB annual conference.
But Mr Kelly said school leaders felt overwhelmed as a consequence of the impact of the cutbacks and the new challenges from a wide range of initiatives, such as the national literacy and numeracy strategy.
"The system at post-primary level is under such pressure that unless adequate resources are allocated to the Junior Cycle reform programme the outcome will be disappointing for all concerned but most particularly for the pupils in our schools," he said.
Similar to other second-level school management bodies, the JMB believes that in-school assessment of pupils by their own teachers needs some external moderation, initially at least.
They would like the State Examinations Commission (SEC) involved in overseeing a sample of student assessments.
Mr Kelly outlined other resources needed, including the appointment in schools of a Leader of Curriculum Development and a Leader of Assessment to drive the big changes envisaged.