There were no new commitments given to the secondary teachers’ union, ASTI, before they announced their decision to re-enter talks on the Leaving Cert, according to sources close to Education Minister Norma Foley.
The sources said “everything is on the table that was on the table before, there is nothing new on the table.”
That tallies with comments made by Michael Gillespie, general secretary of the other post-primary teachers’ union, the TUI, who said that gains claimed by the ASTI were already under discussion.
Earlier today, the ASTI announced that it would re-enter the talks on a compromise Leaving Cert this year.
It pulled out of discussions on Thursday expressing concern that traditional exams were being relegated to secondary position in a twin track process being developed.
The plan being explored involves both the provision of exams and a “corresponding” non-exam process, likely to be a modified version of calculated grades.
But the ASTI said calculated grades was emerging as the premier option.
Ms Foley and her officials met ASTI general secretary Kieran Christie and union president Ann Pigott yesterday.
In a statement today announcing their return to talks, the ASTI said the minister was unequivocal in her commitment to holding the Leaving Certificate this year.
On that basis, the ASTI said it “doubts about the staging of components of the exams” such as orals and practicals and coursework, which is completed in term time, have been substantially alleviated.
The union also said they had received assurances on concerns about the lack of data on which to base any estimated mark that would feed into a non-exam option.
“The Minister has committed to working with stakeholders to strengthen the position in this regard.
“In addition, the ASTI has been assured that the requirement for teachers to provide a list of their students in rank order of merit, like they did last year, will not feature in any corresponding/parallel measure that may be implemented, the union stated.
Ms Foley welcomed the return of the ASTI to the discussions, noting “ their willingness to engage on the agenda that has already been set out in the process.”
Sources close to the minister insisted there was no new commitment to holding the Leaving Cert exams, as that had always been her position.
Speaking on RTE’s Saturday with Katie Hannon , the TUI general secretary expressed "surprise" at the ASTI claims.
In relation to listing students in rank order, Mr Gillespie said there were “proposals on the table that were being worked on that we believe would form a solution that we could all live with this year."
In a formal statement later, the TUI noted the decision of the ASTI to rejoin the talks “based on information and assurances that the TUI had already sought and secured.”
It added: “At every point the TUI has insisted upon and received assurances that the Leaving Certificate written examinations would take place subject only to public health advice. It was on this basis that we entered the confidential talks process. “One of our key priorities, to ensure that the other components of assessment would also take place, had been significantly advanced following detailed proposals by the TUI.”
The TUI said its engagement in the process also “greatly progressed approaches in relation to the problematic issue of class rank order information that formed part of last year’s assessment process.”
“The union will continue to insist that information used to inform the state certified examination processes is appropriate and respects the integrity and value of the Leaving Certificate. “
Ms Foley met representatives of student, parents and school management bodies today. The unions are back in discussion tomorrow
The talks process is up against the clock, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin reiterating yesterday that he wants a deal next week.