Wednesday 13 December 2017

ASTI clears way for junior cycle pupils to sit vital English exam

ASTI President Ed Byrne
ASTI President Ed Byrne
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (Asti) has cleared the way for about 35,000 third-year students to sit a crucial assessment in English next month.

The 80-minute assessment is worth 10pc of the marks in the written exam for the revamped Junior Cert English course.

Students in about 400 schools where the Asti represents teachers have not yet done the assessment because of the union's dispute over junior cycle reform.

However, exam chiefs found a way around the Asti opposition, which the union's governing body, its 23-member Standing Committee, accepted yesterday. The State Examinations Commission (SEC) announced earlier this week that it was dropping the requirement for students to have completed a separate, but linked, classroom-based assessment with their teachers, before sitting the written Assessment Task.

The absence of the requirement for teachers to have first completed a classroom-based assessment with students ahead of the Assessment Task forced a rethink within the Asti.

In a statement after yesterday's meeting, the Standing Committee said Asti members will be advised to co-operate with the new guidelines issued from the SEC.

Asti president Ed Byrne said it welcomed the new arrangements.

He said the Asti principle on independent assessment was upheld.

It is understood that not all members of the Standing Committee were happy to run with the new guidelines, and contrary views were expressed before the meeting decided its position.

The Asti decision means that the estimated 35,000 students who have not yet done the Assessment Task will now be eligible for up to 100pc of marks in the written part of the new-style English exam.

However, these students will not be awarded descriptors by their teachers for two classroom-based assessments, in the certificate of achievement that will issue for each student at the end of junior cycle.

Asti opposition to junior cycle reforms is based on its view that teachers should not be involved in grading their own students for any State certificate.

Although the Assessment Task is conducted in schools, it will be marked by State examiners, the latter a concession to the Asti during earlier negotiations on the reforms.

English is the first of the junior cycle subjects to undergo change as part of the reform process and, as well as the written assessments - the Assessment Task and a traditional, but shorter, paper in June - there is also provision for two classroom-based assessments, graded by teachers.

While immediate concerns about the Assessment Task have been allayed, the dispute between the Asti and Department of Education on the reforms continues.

Pupils whose teachers are in the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), or are not union members, sat the Assessment Task in December, and the SEC has made arrangements for a second sitting, at the end of April, to facilitate students whose teachers are in the Asti.

Irish Independent

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