The decision by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) to support calculated grading process for this year’s Leaving Cert is welcome. In a very trying situation where options and time were limited, clarity urgently needed and no immediate end to the pandemic in sight, it is difficult to imagine an alternate, viable response that might win universal approval.
Despite obvious questions the ASTI’’s pragmatism recognised this reality. The union is not however blind to the challenge and wants to ensure this compromises is able to "deliver fairness, objectivity, and equity for all students and protect the professional integrity of teachers." These are valuable, important objectives and everyone involved in the process should work to deliver them.
Minister for Education Joe McHugh’’s decision that exams will not go ahead as scheduled but that students can either get grades calculated by teachers or sit written exams when public health advice allows got a mixed response. Some reactions were extreme and may have exacerbated students’’ anxieties. That was regrettable, especially at a moment when the state’’s resources are more and more stretched.
The real test of the decision lies ahead. If even one student is unfairly denied opportunity then it will have failed. However, this difficulty may be just the tip of the iceberg bearing down on our education system. The Department of Education’’s top official has raised doubts about schools reopening September. Secretary general Seán Ó Foghlú warned on Friday of be significant accommodation challenges if class sizes need to be cut to meet public health guidelines.
That possibility shoes the impact of the pandemic in a new, even more challenging perspective.