Sunday 17 November 2019

Beware pace of changes to Leaving Cert, warns OECD

Stock picture
Stock picture
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

An international education expert has said the timing and pace of any proposed changes to the Leaving Cert must be up for discussion before final recommendations are drafted.

The advice from Beatriz Pont, senior analyst with the international think-tank the OECD, comes as the secondary teachers' union, the ASTI, warns about a lack of capacity in schools to take on more reforms.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is in the third phase of a major review of senior cycle following on from the overhaul of junior cycle currently being rolled out in schools.

The curriculum advisory body is to finalise its advice before the end of the year and is expected to present proposals to Education Minister Joe McHugh by early 2020.

But even without knowing the nature and scale of change, ASTI president Deirdre MacDonald said yesterday that "many teachers are overwhelmed by their workload. This situation is unsustainable."

Ms Pont, who has been part of an OECD team taking a deep look at senior cycle education in Ireland over the past 18 months, including engaging with the NCCA review, will present some of the preliminary findings of their work at an NCCA national consultation forum today.

Proposals on a timeline for the implementation of change are often held back until a final report, but Ms Pont has clearly picked up on a mood in the consultation process.

Commenting ahead of the forum, she said there was a need "to tackle the concerns about the timing and pace of the review of senior cycle identified in phase two; discussions during phase three should be aiming at clarifying what is the best timing for the introduction of adjustments in senior cycle".

Ms Pont, who describes Ireland as one of the high-performing education systems across OECD countries, said their analysis of senior cycle showed a range of strengths, including high levels of public trust, but also suggested some areas for improvement.

"For example, stakeholders expressed their concern about not having a more rigorous and attractive vocational segment in senior cycle, one that gives real work-based experience to students and that is delivered in close co-ordination with employers," she said.

She paid tribute to the NCCA for "designing and carrying out an inclusive review process" and said: "The tailored approach to engage stakeholders in the senior cycle review is an asset for the development of senior cycle."

Meanwhile, the ASTI said capacity issues must be addressed in a "rigorous" review of the new-style junior cycle prior to senior cycle curriculum change.

The ASTI call came on the back of research commissioned by the union, which stated significant curriculum change was "not appropriate in the near future due to the lack of capacity in schools".

The research, by Dr Brian Fleming, a former principal, also cited uncertainty about the outcomes of the new junior cycle and "the deterioration in teachers' working conditions".

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News