Sunday 24 September 2017

Schools 'lack vital resources' for exam reforms

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

SECONDARY schools have warned they have not yet been given the necessary resources to implement the new-style Junior Cert, which starts next September.

Schools say they need more training, ongoing access to experts in the change process and an extra weekly allocation of 10 teaching hours – almost half a full-time job – to free up staff to prepare for the change.

The Joint Managerial Body (JMB), which represents management in more than half of second-level schools, also criticised a lack of resources to implement new bullying procedures in schools.

JMB general secretary Ferdia Kelly said next Easter was the deadline for schools to introduce mandatory anti-bullying procedures, but because of education cuts, they had lost staff such as year heads and guidance counsellors, who would be key to such a process.

Radical reform of the Junior Cert, which will be phased in over a number of years starting with a new English syllabus for first years in 2014, was the theme of the JMB education conference yesterday.

JMB president Fr Paul Connell said Junior Cert reform was a national project that was "too important to fail" but schools needed help.

FUNDING

He said while the JMB had engaged regional facilitators to support school management with the transition, "we hope that the minister will be equally determined to fight for adequate development funding at the cabinet table".

Outlining their needs, he said that schools should not have to struggle for every support, from computers to assessment administration to time for teacher development.

One of the main changes will be teachers assessing their own students in place of the traditional state exam, and education consultant Dr Mark Fennell told the conference training teachers would be key to success.

The reform package also includes revamped syllabuses, short courses, greater use of digital technologies in learning and assessment, involvement of the whole school community in deciding the content and focus of what the school offers and a special programme for children with special educational needs.

Dr Fennell said there was a need to rethink some deep assumptions about the assessment and learning culture in schools and to plan a phased approach to ensure teachers were assisted in moving on from old ways of thinking and doing.

Irish Independent

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