ASTI to re-enter talks on Leaving Certificate with Department of Education

Education Minister Norma Foley

Ciara O'Loughlin and Katherine Donnelly

The Association of Secondary School Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) has made a U-turn as it has re-entered Leaving Certificate talks with the Department of Education.

The union said it would “engage constructively”.

The talks, which are continuing over the weekend, are up against the clock as Taoiseach Micheál Martin reiterated yesterday that he wants a deal next week.

The ASTI pulled out of discussions on Thursday expressing concern that traditional exams were being relegated to secondary position in a twin track process being developed because of Covid-19.

However, the ASTI announced today that it is re-entering talks as it seeks to facilitate this year’s Leaving Certificate students “in moving on with their lives”.

The plan being explored involves both the provision of exams and a “corresponding” non-exam process, likely to be a modified version of calculated grades.

But the ASTI said calculated grades was emerging as the premier option.

The end of the statement read: "On the basis of the foregoing, the ASTI will now re-enter the bilateral discussions process. We will continue to constructively engage to seek to ensure ways are found to facilitate this year’s Leaving Certificate students in moving on with their lives.”

However, General Secretary of the Teacher’s Union of Ireland (TUI) Michael Gillespie said that these concerns from the ASTI were already adressed.

“I am genuinely surprised at the suggestion that anything has advanced,” he said on RTÉ Radio 1’s Saturday with Katie Hannon.

"We were still in discussions yesterday and everything that was discussed was a continuation of what had happened earlier in the week.

“The Minister and the Taoiseach already made it clear that the examinations will run, we are supporting that on the 9th of June that they will go ahead as is. We are working on a very complex set of negotiations.”

When asked if the abolishment of ranking students like last year had been agreed, he said: “Yes, well there were proposals on the table being worked on that we believe would eventually form a solution that we would be able to lift it this year.”

On Thursday, ASTI General Secretary Kieran Christie said it was “unacceptable that a plan is being developed that effectively see students preparing for two versions of a Leaving Cert, with Calculated Grades being the dominant option, and the Leaving Cert exams filling in assessment gaps.”

He added: “We entered a process in good faith to explore the position whereby if the Leaving Certificate or elements of it do not go ahead, a fair and credible choice or option would be available to students.

“It is clear to us that the approach being developed would not provide the meaningful Leaving Certificate experience this cohort of students deserve.

“The process is being developed in a manner that would see the Leaving Certificate relegated to a secondary position with Calculated Grades the premier option. The lack of data this year would make the delivery of a credible Calculated Grades process extremely challenging.

“Given the widely accepted additional stress that students are currently experiencing, it is extraordinary that the only option being explored is that they would effectively prepare for two versions of a Leaving Certificate rather than one.

“We are calling for the Minister to re-establish the focus of the talks so that a meaningful Leaving Certificate experience is provided to this cohort of students, which they rightly deserve.”