Teachers won’t assess their own students in junior cycle

The dispute between teachers and the Department of Education over junior cycle reform is due to become more protracted after secondary teachers decided not to undertake associated assessments of their own students.

Teachers won’t assess their own students in junior cycle

The Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) is intended to be issued from autumn 2017 for students who have completed the three-year cycle. It would include outcomes of classroom-based assessments, as well as results of the planned continuation of the State-certified written Junior Certificate exams.

While 18,000 members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (Asti) are already on course to begin a series of one-day strikes in the autumn on disputed detail of the reforms, a motion passed at its annual convention adds further complication.

The union’s leaders have been urging the next education minister to engage in talks on those outstanding issues on the new junior cycle framework, already being implemented by second-level members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI). But by voting overwhelmingly that Asti members refuse to assess their own students for school certification aspects that count towards the JCPA, convention delegates could make it more difficult for the union to enter such talks.

Mark Walshe, a member of the union’s standing committee and the Dublin north-east branch, acknowledged improvements secured by union leaders before the position reached with the Department of Education last September. But, he said, that joint statement which was rejected by Asti members stated that the final State exam would merely complement the school-based element.

“It’s like having your dinner which is complemented by a glass of wine. It’s the add-on, it’s not the main thing,” he said, adding that the junior cycle issue is about eventually devolving responsibility around curriculum and assessment entirely to schools.

Noel Buckley, a Tipperary representative on Asti’s central executive council, said the union had done well last year to secure retention of State certification of the final exam, something members had fought for in the long campaign.

“Now we’re saying we want to raise the profile of the school-based one. Put yourselves in the shoes of parents and which certificate are you going to look at, the one with the harp or the one with the school stamp,” he asked.

Mr Buckley warned about opening up battles on too many fronts, with the existing strike mandate already likely to be used in September, and delegates’ decision on Tuesday to ballot for action up to strikes on restoring pay parity for recent entrants to the profession.

Standing committee member Andrew Phelan said any general who does not defend all the way around from attacks would lose the war.

“They are trying to make us buy into a system that we don’t agree with. If we want changes we can pick a date 10 years down the line, this is not something we want discussed and finalised over the summer,” he said.

There were a range of issues on which Asti members advised they had outstanding concerns within the framework negotiated during last summer. The TUI’s members are implementing the new system already, with English the first subject in which a new curriculum is being assessed for current second-year students.

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