Parents ‘do trust teachers to mark their Junior Cert pupils’

Parents trust teachers enough to mark their own students in the planned new-style Junior Certificate, a second-level parents’ leader has said.

The first changes will begin in English for students starting first year next autumn and who will finish the junior cycle in 2017. The replacement of State-certified exams with assessment by students’ own schools instead of paid examiners is causing unease among teacher unions, which say it will create pressures from parents and change the good relations they enjoy with students.

However, National Parents’ Council — Post-Primary chief Jim Moore said there is more respect for the teaching profession than those concerns suggest.

“There’s no one disputing that [the new junior cycle plan] is ambitious, but it’s not going to be a do-or-die exam like it used to be,” said Mr Moore.

“Some of what is proposed is already taking place in existing forms of assessment, and they shouldn’t underestimate the respect parents have for the teaching profession.”

As 200 delegates gathered for the NPC-PP annual conference in Kilkenny, Mr Moore said parents need to get more active in their schools by forming parents’ associations or getting more involved in existing ones, to ensure greater input on issues like bullying.

“There is a wide range of ongoing reforms that parents can have a voice on, like junior cycle developments, enrolment policy proposals for schools, and ongoing issues around school books and uniform costs,” he said.

The Department of Education chief inspectors’ 2010-2012 report this week showed that less than half of second-level parents said their children’s schools regularly seek their views on school matters. Although 86% of parents felt there is good contact between school and home, only half said their parents’ associations keeps them informed about their work.

More than one third of second-level parents did not get helpful advice from the school on their children’s subject choices and almost one in six were not happy with arrangements for parent-teacher meetings.

Mr Moore repeated previous calls for a speedy resolution to the industrial dispute between 16,000 second-level teachers at 500 schools and the Department of Education. The action by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland has seen parent-teacher meetings moved inside school hours and its members are not attending training on junior cycle changes.

Both sides are saying little about contacts that have taken place, but education issues of concern to ASTI include junior cycle reform and how 33 extra hours’ work expected of teachers should be used. They were being worked under the Croke Park deal but the union rejected the Haddington Road Agreement accepted by all other unions.


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