TEACHERS have nothing to worry about in assessing their own students for the new-style Junior Cert, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has insisted.
He said they would only be doing what they are already doing for pupils in non-exam years, such as second and fifth year.
Mr Quinn recently rolled out plans for a radical reform of the Junior Cert, aimed at replacing the traditional exam with a system of continuous assessment by teachers.
The change has been driven by a need to get away from "rote learning" and teaching to the test, and educating teenagers to think for themselves.
There has been hostile reaction from teacher unions to the scale of change involved and concerns have been expressed about the extra workload, training and the implications for pupil-teacher relations .
Mr Quinn told the Irish Independent that teachers could be "absolutely assured" that taking on the role of assessor of their own students would not damage the teacher-pupil relationship.
"I am only asking them to do in third year what they currently do in second year and fifth year," he told the Irish Independent.
Speaking earlier at the annual conference of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, he said the phrase 'continuous assessment' was misleading and hard to sell to people who "fear the workload involved".
He said it should be more accurately called 'periodic work-programme assessment', similar to what already happens with portfolios at third level.
Mr Quinn said the reform would be introduced carefully and cautiously and everybody involved would be consulted.
The changes to the assessment of 21 subjects will start with the new-style English, which to be introduced to first-year students in 2014.
The Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland ( ASTI) said the key concerns of teachers over Junior Cert reform must be addressed.
The union's Standing Committee has decided to start a consultation process with members leading to a national conference next April.
ASTI president Gerry Breslin said members were appalled by the minister's lack of consultation with classroom teachers prior to his announcement on Junior Cycle reform two weeks ago.
"Teachers learned about major reforms... via the media. There is a lot of anger in schools that the views and experiences of teachers were not sought."
The Standing Committee was told that the loss of national state certification at Junior Cycle level would damage education.
"While the Junior Certificate has flaws, one of its greatest strengths is that it has a high status in the minds of students, teachers and parents.
The decision to axe state certification at Junior Cycle level will have a negative impact," said Mr Breslin.