One of the largest second-level schools in the country is going ahead with its own exams for Junior Cert students rather than asking students to wait until the autumn.
lan Mongey, principal of Coláiste Bhaile Chláir a 1,200-pupil school in Claregalway, Co Galway, said he didn’t want the exams hanging over his 200 third year pupils in the summer.
Education Minister Joe McHugh has cancelled Junior Cert June exams and said they will be replaced with school-based assessments, set by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), in the autumn.
But Coláiste Bhaile Chláir pupils will sit exams set by their own teachers in the coming weeks and their grades will be recorded in the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA),which has replaced the Junior Cert.
However, if students also want to sit the SEC exams in the autumn, they will be facilitated.
Mr Mongey, who is the current president of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), said he believes other schools are thinking along the same lines.
He said, as a school leader, his responsibility was to his students, and their health and well-being at this time.
“As school principal I do not want State exams hanging over third year students throughout the summer months. They have enough going on in their lives without waiting all summer to sit tests at the beginning of the school year.
“We do not wish to see students over the summer months caught up inside preparing for exams, worrying about when they might go ahead, if they go ahead.
“What if all that time were spent wasted when they could have been outside playing, working and helping family and friends through this difficult time.”
He said the Junior Cert, while a milestone exam in a student’s education, if they did not sit it, it would not hinder them: “We see this every year where students miss the exam due to family bereavement or illness and it has no impact upon their future studies in Senior Cycle.
When the school does return in the autumn, his wish was “that we all start afresh, renewed and re-invigorated”
Mr Mongey also said there was no way of knowing “when we will be able to return and to what extent that return will look like in September”, also noting that a lot of teachers in the school will be occupied grading the delayed Leaving Cert exams.
He said they were going to treat third years the same way we would any other year group and hold end of year assessments and continuous assessments over the next few weeks to keep all students engaged in school.
He said he believed their approach would help to keep third year students focused and engaged for these final six weeks of school term.
The school took the decision in consultation with parents and it has published full details of its plan on its website today. He has invited pupils to email him if they have any issues.
The initiative challenges the view by teacher unions that assessment must be independent of a pupil’s own teacher, but Mr Mongey said he believed in the quality and professionalism of the school’s teachers to award grades based on clearly defined criteria and using work already completed to date.
The former Junior Cert is now broken into two - school-based assessments known as CBAs and the traditional June exams, the latter set and marked by the SEC.
Where the third year pupils in Coláiste Bhaile Chláir have not completed the CBAs due to Covid-19 restrictions, teachers will ask students to do a small project at home. Alternatively a grade descriptor will be awarded for students’ performance in class during third year prior to school closure.
The traditional June exams will be substituted with a requirement for students to complete assigned work in each subject during this term and, teachers will award a subject grade as they would for any other year group.
The end of term grade awarded will be added to the 100 per cent already given for oral, practical and project work to determine overall final grade and this overall final grade will Appear on the JCPA.
There will be an appeals process for the subject grades and if a student is not happy with their assigned grade they can sit the SEC exam in the autumn.