Delegates attending the annual conference of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) yesterday signalled their resistance to this type of reform by unanimously backing a motion calling on their union to “formulate a policy of total opposition” should attempts be made to introduce such assessment in the senior cycle.
General secretary Kieran Christie said ASTI was “not opposed to reform per se” but that the union “has for many years had a policy that we will not assess our own students for certificate examination purposes”.
“That is something that is not going to change. ASTI supports externally assessed state examinations, not for selfish reasons, but because they meet the professional requirements of any national examination, namely, that it is fair and objective.”
Mr Christie said the recent dispute between teachers and the Department of Education and Skills over the junior cycle “underlines the fact that substantial change to teachers’ professional work requires agreement —not imposition”.
It was important that the education minister understood this position, he said.
Mr Christie said radical curriculum change “must be accompanied by a parallel process of engagement with the teaching profession”.
Changes to the junior cycle were introduced in recent years involving an assessment system but retaining a traditional written exam.
Teachers award 10% of the marks in English based on continuous assessment. Reform of the senior cycle is currently being examined by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.
Sinead Moore, a teacher at St Joseph’s Secondary School in Rush, Co Dublin, said the Leaving Certificate was “a high stakes exam and we do not want to be the ones who are correcting our students’ work because I think it will interfere with the relationship between teacher and student”.
She said teachers deciding on a student’s marks “could be open to some kind of abuse, possibly maybe some parents might have a lot of power and they might exert some kind of control”.
Raymond Silke, a teacher at Coláiste Iognaid in Galway, said while most teachers accepted there was a need for reform, parents did like the objectivity of the Leaving Certificate.
He agreed with Ms Moore that awarding marks to students in their final exam could change the relationship with students, especially for teachers involved in extra-curricular activities.
Joe Scally, from Mullingar, Co Westmeath, said teachers needed to be resolute in their efforts to make sure the senior cycle “doesn’t fall victim to the vicissitudes that have eroded the junior cycle”; and which could lead to “hideous erosion of our flagship state exam”.
Noel Buckley, a Tipperary branch delegate said: “Don’t let them make the jump that what can be done for the Junior Cert can be done for the Leaving Cert. It cannot.”
Mary Linden, Roscrea, said trying to get teachers to conduct assessments was “a money-saving exercise” and was “not ideological, not of educational benefit”.
Teachers attending the conference also backed a motion expressing serious concern regarding the “fall in educational standards” in subjects that have changed as part of the reform of the new junior cycle.
The motion called on for the Department of Education to immediately conduct a review of subject changes to date.