The Department of Education has warned parents and Leaving Cert candidates off offering any inducement to teachers in a bid to influence grades they award under the new assessment system replacing the Leaving Cert.
New advice gives an indication of how seriously the Department would regard any attempt to pressurise a teachers to show a favourable bias towards a student, and also cautions teachers to avoid discussing grades with students or parents.
Work is continuing on guidance for teachers in how they should approach the calculated grades process, which will include further detail on the issue of improper contact between parents/students and teachers.
The final guidance is expected to spell out the consequences of any inappropriate conduct, but meanwhile the Department has made its position clear in an updated FAQ posting about the calculated grades process on its own website.
It points out that at the core of calculated grades was a commitment to objectivity and fairness both to individual students and all other students and to ensure this, the school-based end of process must not be compromised.
It states that the principal, deputy principal, teachers or other members of the school staff must not, under any circumstances, discuss with or disclose to any student or parent or guardian of any student the estimated marks and ranking that the school is submitting.
The Department says there are two reason for this, one being that the mark assigned by the school is not necessarily the final mark that the student will receive and that it would therefore be misleading for the student to receive that mark before the calculated grade processes were complete.
The second reason put forward by the Department is that allowing access to and discussion of estimated grades before the calculated grades process was complete would interfere with the process being carried out properly and fairly.
“If teachers discussed the marks with some students but not others, or if some teachers did this and others did not, these discussions might actually influence (consciously or unconsciously) or be represented or construed as influencing the mark the teacher submits to the subject alignment group."
Similarly, the Department advises “parents/guardians and students must not under any circumstances contact or attempt to contact, either formally or informally, directly or indirectly, a teacher or other member of staff at any stage to discuss the estimated marks or ranking to be assigned to a student in any subject.
“Teachers and schools must not be subjected to any type of influence, inducement (including gifts), pressure or coercion by a parent/guardian, student or any other person in relation to a student’s mark or ranking either before or after it has been assigned.”
It says that such contact would be regarded as “totally inappropriate and a serious attempt to interfere with the fairness and objectivity required of teachers and schools in the assigning of estimated marks and ranking for the individual student concerned and for the students in the school as a whole.”