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Teacher unions push for more choice on exam papers instead of hybrid Leaving Cert

Clarity on the exams urgently needed to give students time to prepare, says TUI chief


Stock image. Photo: Mark Stedman

Stock image. Photo: Mark Stedman

Stock image. Photo: Mark Stedman

Teacher unions are calling for more changes to this year’s Leaving Cert exams to take account of the disruption experienced by students in the class of 2022.

The move comes as talks continue on the shape of the State exams 2022, among calls for a hybrid Leaving Cert.

Education stakeholders are split over whether to return to an exams-only Leaving Cert or also give students a choice off accredited grades based on teachers’ estimated marks.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) is seeking a rapid decision because of the impact the current uncertainty is having on students.

Teacher unions are among those who want exams only, but today called for more choice on papers on a similar scale to last year.

In 2021, students were expected to answer fewer questions in each exam with the same time allocation, effectively giving significantly enhanced choice.

A TUI survey of members last week found that 75pc believe that the modifications announced in August 2021 for the class of 2022 are not sufficient given the effects of the pandemic, especially the impact of the recent Omicron wave.

The union has provided the Department of Education with member’s feedback on the adjustments needed in the structure of both exam papers and other assessment components, such as practicals.

TUI general secretary Michael Gillespie said clarity on the exams was “urgently needed” so that teaching and learning had the requisite focus over the coming months.

He said, anecdotally, they were hearing that the current indecision is negatively affecting student engagement with important Leaving Certificate tasks and decisions.

Mr Gillespie said some students were disengaging in the belief that accredited grades would be an option.

There is also concern that students are feeling undue pressure over mock exams run by many schools in February to help prepare them for June. While intended as a learning experience, some students are approaching them as if they will be used in accredited grades.

The TUI says Leaving Certificate Applied students also require additional supports similar to 2021.

It is calling for modifications to the Junior Cert exams and the urgent circulation of sample papers that take account of the pandemic’s effects, to provide guidance and clarity to students and teachers.

The Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland ( ASTI) has also called for “every feasible adjustment” to the written exams to be considered to give students as much confidence as possible as they continue their preparations.

ASTI said it was “committed to the preservation of Ireland’s high-quality, fair and independent State Exams system. This system helps to ensure that all students can expect fairness and transparency in relation to their Leaving Certificate.”

Students, parents ,and Opposition parties are among those seeking a return to a 2021-style hybrid option giving students a choice of exams, accredited grades based on teachers’ estimated marks, or both.

Principals are also seeking more choice for students, including an option of grades based on teachers’ marks, if necessary. Children’s Ombudsman Dr Niall Muldoon also says a hybrid option must be explored.

As well as the teacher unions, Education Minister Norma Foley and the State Examinations Commission (SEC), and the higher education sector favour a return to a traditional exams-only Leaving Cert.

Talks on the options kicked off last week and Ms Foley is now engaged in a series of bilateral discussions with students, unions, principals and other education stakeholders seeking a solution.

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