Friday 28 April 2017

Teachers warn Quinn they won't assess work by their own pupils

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn

Fergus Black

TEACHERS warned again last night that they will refuse to assess their own students as part of state exams.

The warning came after Education Minister Ruairi Quinn approved controversial plans to replace the Junior Certificate with a new system.

Gone will be the sole reliance on the results of a final exam and there will be a much greater emphasis on continuous assessment. Exams will only account for 60pc of the final mark.

But secondary teachers' union ASTI repeated its opposition to teachers assessing their own students for state exams.

General secretary Pat King warned that such a move would "distort" the existing professional relationship between teachers, students and parents and would damage students' experience of education.

While the Teachers' Union of Ireland said it had no difficulty with the concept of teachers assessing their own students, it said the proposals must be underpinned by adequate resources and that teachers should be paid for any additional work this would involve.

Employers' group IBEC welcomed the changes but its head of education policy, Tony Donohue, said the new programme needed to be adequately resourced if it was to develop a broader range of skills and stimulate pupils's enthusiasm.

Asked last night how the minister intended to overcome union opposition, the Department of Education said Mr Quinn had asked his officials to "begin discussions with the partners in education on implementing the proposals".

Under the National Council for Curriculum Assessment proposals, the National Certificate for Junior Cycle Education will be introduced in 2014, with the first certificates issued in 2017.

Students will be able to gain marks through a series of 'portfolios' of work, which they complete over a two-year period.

Schools will also have the option of being able to award marks for extra-curricular activities, such as drama, debating or school musicals.

Class teachers will assess their own students' portfolios but some of the assessment work will also be scrutinised on a sample basis by the State Examination Commission.

The proposals, which will now be followed by intensive negotiations with school management and teachers' unions, are designed to tackle the problem of "learning off by heart".

Training

The reform plan will mean a massive and costly teacher-training programme, while schools will also need administration and IT support.

Officially launching the new proposals, Mr Quinn signalled that money would be available to implement the new changes.

The minister said he would be putting the necessary arrangements in place and undertaking "consideration of the resource implications".

While he agreed last month on a subject cap, limiting qualifications to eight subjects, this will not now become mandatory until students sit their first exams in 2017.

However, Mr Quinn left it open to schools to reduce the number of subjects taken by their students in the meantime.

NCCA chief executive Dr Anne Looney said schools needed to begin planning early next year to be ready to begin the new programme in 2014.

She added: "It means that children now in fourth class in primary school, who will leave post-primary school in 2020, will be the first to access the new qualification."

Irish Independent

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