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Parents lobbying teachers could cost pupils their results in Leaving Cert

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Students will not receive CAO offers if their exam results are withheld. Photo: David Jones

Students will not receive CAO offers if their exam results are withheld. Photo: David Jones

Students will not receive CAO offers if their exam results are withheld. Photo: David Jones

Leaving Cert pupils will not get their results if parents or others lobby teachers in the hope of influencing the marks they award for the accredited-grades process.

Canvassing will be officially prohibited under proposed legislation Education Minister Norma Foley is bringing before Cabinet tomorrow for approval.

Withholding results is the only sanction set out in the legislation, but not having Leaving Cert results can carry serious consequences.

A pupil whose results are withheld could not, for instance, get a CAO offer this year and would have to sit the exams again and reapply.

Last year, principals were asked to note any instances of canvassing on behalf of a pupil and to advise the Department of Education, but it had no legal backing. There was, however, anecdotal evidence from principals of parents applying pressure.

After passing Cabinet, the bill will go to the Houses of the Oireachtas. No opposition is anticipated and it is expected to be made law within weeks.

The legislation will also provide for an indemnity for anyone involved in the process, such as a teacher or principal.

It will give the State Examinations Commission (SEC) legal authority to run the accredited-grades process. The SEC had no powers in this area last year and the hastily established Calculated Grades Executive Office operated under the Department of Education.

Teachers have identified lobbying by parents as a concern in circumstances where they may be asked to award marks for a State-certified exam, such as the Leaving Cert. It is a major factor in teacher opposition to the principle of grading their students for anything other than house exams.

What compounded the situation for teachers involved in the calculated-grades process was that they also had to give each student a class ranking, although this is not required this year.

Problems encountered by teachers were reported in a study by the DCU Institute of Education and its CARPE assessment research centre, based on replies from more than 700 teachers.

The report states: “In the context of teaching locally, a number of comments were made about how involvements in the calculated-grades process induced so much stress linked with pressure from parents and/or unwelcome contacts from parents and/students.”

Comments referred to the unnecessary stress and pressure, particularly in rural and small towns, where a teacher lives and teaches locally.

One teacher said: “I felt pressure when meeting parents out in town shopping, etc, as some tried to broach the subject of assessment with me, some parents have not spoken to me since as they feel I gave a harsh grade and didn’t reward their child fairly.”

Another felt that while it “would be OK for teacher involvement in urban centres, the nature of rural and small-town Ireland made the entire process very uncomfortable and I am sure that teachers will feel the rippling exponential impact of this for some time”.


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