The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) has said it will work to support the decision to postpone the Leaving Cert exams this year.
The union said its members had given a strong message of overwhelming support for their students in an extensive consultation process in recent days.
Education Minister Joe McHugh has announced that the exams have been rescheduled from June to the end of July/August, but that timing is also subject to public health advice.
Teachers are being asked to make themselves available to return to the classroom for at least two weeks before the exams to support candidates, and also to maintain contact with their students in the period before that.
The ASTI executive body met today and “confirmed its support for the Minister’s Leaving Cert exams announcement, notwithstanding a number of serious concerns raised by teachers all over the country.
“The executive reported that members had indicated a willingness to be available where possible to assist with student preparation and face-to-face engagement prior to the examinations.”
Among the concerns raised by the ASTI leadership are provision for students with special needs, the need for social spacing at practical exams and the requirement for candidates to finish projects that are locked in schools.
Over the weekend, the ASTI also issued a clarification in response to what it described as a considerable amount of confusion on social media, stating that “contrary to misinformation that is circulating, no teacher will be required to do anything. The proposal from the Department of Education and Skills cannot be enforced.”
After today’s meeting, ASTI president Deirdre Mac Donald said the ASTI would meet with the Department of Education and Skills and other relevant agencies in order to seek to resolve issues raised by its members.
“We look forward to engaging constructively with the Minister and the Department. We are very cognisant of the wellbeing implications posed by this pandemic to everyone, especially our students.”
The ASTI also acknowledged the decision to cancel this year’s Junior Cert June exams and to replace them with in-school assessments and tests early in the next school year.
Ms McDonald called for the awarding of a State Certificate to all this year’s Junior Cycle candidates in recognition of their participation in and completion of the three years of Junior Cycle in June 2020.
The issue of who supervises and marks the in-school assessments has yet to be decided and the ASIT has traditionally opposed the awarding of a State certificate unless the marking is done by State-appointed, rather than students’ own teachers.
Ms McDonald also acknowledged the “Trojan efforts of teachers and students in continuing teaching and learning in these most challenging circumstances.”
Fianna Fáil Education spokesperson Thomas Byrne, has called for €116 exam fee for the Leaving Cert to be waived for pupils who are living in a house where a parent is unemployed or receiving a COVID-19 related payment.
Labour Education spokesperson Aodhán ÓRíordán has called for the fee to be waived in recognition of the additional burden facing students and their families at this time, while he also believes the number of subjects eligible for CAO points should be reduced to five.