External supervisors will be brought in to allow pupils to sit English assessment in April
External supervisors will be brought in to second-level schools to ensure that all pupils can sit an assessment worth 10pc of marks in the new-style Junior Cert English exam.
State education chiefs have moved to ensure that 35,000 third-year pupils in about 500 schools are not at a disadvantage in the exam because of the ongoing dispute with the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI).
The surprise development will provide comfort to students and their parents - and removes a powerful weapon of the ASTI in its long-running campaigns on junior cycle reform and pay.
About 25,000 third-year pupils, whose teachers are not in the ASTI, completed the 80-minute classroom-based assessment in December, but the ASTI banned its members from co-operation with it.
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) is offering another opportunity for students to sit the assessment at the end of April, but this week's rejection by the ASTI of proposals to settle its dispute put a large question mark over that.
In a statement last night, the State Examinations Commission noted the concerns and said it would provide guidance for the completion of the tasks to schools, "which would make it clear that all students would have an opportunity to undertake the assessment".
The statement did not provide any details of how this could happen, but it is understood that the main option being proposed is the use of external supervisors, similar to the way they are deployed for the State exams in June.
Following its 52.5pc-47.5pc vote against the package on pay and Junior Cert reforms, the ASTI has no plans for an immediate return to industrial action, but ASTI president Ed Byrne has said the union will respond "in kind" if the Department of Education threats any teacher with redundancy.
This could arise if a member of the ASTI is told they will be surplus to requirements in their school in September when the teacher allocations for the next academic year are issued later this month.
Because they are outside the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) on pay and productivity, members of the ASTI will not be offered redeployment.
The ASTI is the only public service union that has not signed up to the LRA, as a result of which its members are losing out on pay-restoration measures and other benefits, such as quicker access to full-time jobs for new teachers.
Other public service unions are now preparing for its successor.
Education Minister Richard Bruton said the ASTI had rejected "the final outcome of the process and there will be no further offer made".
A meeting of the ASTI governing body, its 23-member Standing Committee, is being held next Thursday and Friday, where decisions will be taken about the union's next steps.