The ASTI is under new pressure to ensure that about 35,000 third year pupils taught by its members are able to complete a crucial English assessment next month.
Students in about 400 schools where the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) represents teachers have not yet done the school-based assessment, which is worth 10pc of marks in the new-style Junior Certificate English exam.
While about 25,000 other pupils did what is known as the Assessment Task in December, ASTI members have refused to oversee it in their classrooms, as part of the union’s opposition to junior cycle reforms.
Although the assessment is conducted in schools, it will be marked by State examiners, the latter a concession to the ASTI during negotiations on the reforms, and in recognition of union resistance to teachers grading their own students in a State exam.
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) is offering a second chance for students to sit the Assessment Task at the end of April and today published detailed guidance on how it could be done.
The strong message from the SEC guidance is that there is no justification for the ASTI not to co-operate with the Assessment Task.
According to the SEC, arrangements for the management and operation of the Assessment Task are in line with those applying for the conduct of externally-assessed course work components in a range of subjects, such as Junior Cert science or Leaving Cert history and geography.
In other words, ASTI members are already co-operating with similar assessments for other subjects – although not in the context of junior cycle reforms.
The guidance also draws a clear distinction between two different elements of the Assessment Task. It notes that the completion of the Assessment Task involves students referring to their ‘Collection of Texts’, which they have undertaken as part of their English course, and which is also used for the purpose of a classroom-based assessment.
But, it states that it is not necessary for a student's work to have been assessed by their teacher in a classroom-based assessment in order for the Assessment Task to be undertaken: “The completion of the Assessment Task is a separate activity and will be marked by the SEC.”
The ASTI said its governing body, the 23-member Standing Committee , would consider this matter later this week.