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‘No to teacher-based assessment’ – Teachers hold up placards in protest of Leaving Cert reforms as Norma Foley addresses conference


Teachers hold up placards at the TUI conference in Waterford. Picture: Tommy Clancy

Teachers hold up placards at the TUI conference in Waterford. Picture: Tommy Clancy

Teachers hold up placards at the TUI conference in Waterford. Picture: Tommy Clancy

Members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) held up placards in protest of Leaving Cert reforms as Education Minister Norma Foley prepared to address them at their annual conference.

Senior cycle reform has been one of the hot topics at the three-day conference in Clayton Whites Hotel, in Co Wexford.

Dozens of delegates held placards saying: “No to teacher-based assessment for State certification,” as Ms Foley entered the room.

Earlier a motion of consequence, which outlined that delegates will resist the imposition of teacher-based assessment for State certification purposes, was unanimously passed.

A similar motion was also passed today by members of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI).

TUI members are calling for the retention of external procedures as organised by the State Examinations Commission (SEC).

Her plans for the most radical overhaul of the exam since it was introduced almost 100 years ago have been met with resistance from teachers from some of the country’s biggest unions.

Yesterday, at the annual conference of the Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI), she received a stark warning not to push ahead with changes without proper consultation and agreement.

TUI members have echoed those views today.

Delegates are seeking assurances that their workload will not be increased because of any changes that may be implemented arising from the review of the senior cycle programmes.

A major sticking point for unions is the move to require teachers to assess their own students for 40pc of the marks in each subject – something to which they are fundamentally opposed.

Addressing the conference, Ms Foley defended the changes she announced at the end of March.

She said that “safeguards” will be put in place to protect the student-teacher relationship in the new teacher assessment model.

“​​I know too, as a teacher, that you will all be very conscious of the need to protect the relationships at school level that you have with your students. “Again, we can see internationally that those relationships can be protected and strengthened.

"There will be safeguards and a balance to be struck in how both the teacher and the student are protected in a teacher assessment model.”

Ms Foley said that the changes announced will address the diversity of students’ learning needs and strengths, and “provide accessible and equally valued learning pathways in school; and we must broaden the ways we assess and accredit students’ achievement”.

“I am determined that curriculum design and teacher professional development will support the use of a broader range of methodologies and learning experiences.

“I strongly believe it is essential for teachers to be involved in co-designing our curricular and assessment approach and I will facilitate the allocation of time and professional development to enable this to happen.”

She assured the Leaving Cert class of 2022 that their exam marks will be on par with those of the class of 2021.

Ms Foley also said that the controversial calculated grades system will not be used this year.

The motion adopted at the conference commits the TUI to resisting Ms Foley’s plans for teachers to assess their own students.

It also warns of possible ballot on strike action if TUI demands in relation to necessary resources to underpin changes are forthcoming.

TUI president Martin Marjoram said “by all means” the minister should pursue the “excellent recommendations” for senior cycle reform made by the National Council l for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) .

But he said the union’s opposition to teachers marking their own students for state certification had not diminished, and had received morning a “ringing unanimous confirmation” at the conference.

He said: “Direct your and your Department’s energies elsewhere – do not ask us to co-design, co-construct, co-author, co-concoct or co-half-bake that which is anathema to us and which will not work.”

Mr Marjoram said it was a “deeply held belief” in the TUI that teachers should not assess their own students for state certification purposes

He said the change in the student-teacher relationship arising from such assessment was profound.

“Our advocacy for our students, the sense of common purpose with them in achieving their full potential, is immensely valuable.”

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