Teacher unions have had split reactions to the Government’s new guidelines on grading this year’s Leaving Certificate while some politicians have sharply criticised the unprecedented move.
The Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) warned its members not to engage with the new Leaving Cert guidelines as it believes the legal protection currently being offered to teachers is “unacceptable.”
However, the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) has welcomed new “safeguards” for teachers and students.
Schools received detailed instructions on how Leaving Cert students should be marked yesterday evening and the Cabinet signed off on State-backed legal indemnity for teachers and school leaders against any legal action relating to the marks they give.
The TUI welcomed the new legal indemnity for teachers and the new rules that ban any canvassing of teachers to improve grades.
Parents who try to lobby or bribe a teacher to improve their child’s calculated grade are to be reported to the Department of Education.
And teachers have been told to report any gift made by a parent or any contact that could be perceived to affect their impartiality.
The TUI also welcomed the confirmation that no student or school will be profiled and all achievements will be fairly reflected.
TUI president Seamus Lahart said: “Following on from its decision that the Leaving Certificate written exams could not proceed this year due to ongoing public health concerns, the Government decided to introduce a system of calculated grades on an exceptional basis.
“While the clear preference of the TUI has always been that the written examinations would proceed, the union’s executive committee, recognising that this was not possible in the context of the Covid public health emergency, decided that members would engage with the calculated grades system to allow students to move on to the next stage of their lives.
“Students can be sure that this is a robust framework that will be recognised by the CAO and other systems.
“While the guidance is as comprehensive as is possible, we will of course urgently address any rising issues with the Department.
“Crucially, there is clear legal indemnity for teachers and schools. This is of vital importance.”
However, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Sinn Féin spokesman on education and skills, said that the new scheme was “dreadful” and “needs to be fixed ASAP”.
“This news has caused concern for Leaving Cert students, their families and teachers. What teachers are expected to do under this scheme is highly pressurised, difficult, and unprecedented. They deserve protection,” he wrote on Twitter.
He echoed the ASTI’s concerns that protection for teachers offered by the new scheme were “inadequate”.
Meanwhile, Labour’s education spokesman, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, has called for the minister’s legal advice on cancelling the exam to be published after the plan to indemnify teachers and schools from any legal cases was announced.
Mr Ó Ríordáin asked: “What legal power does the Minister have to offer an indemnity to teachers and principals who participate in a non-statutory scheme that he has organised, in substitution for statutory exams?”
He also asked the Minister for Education what funds were available “to organise this non-statutory scheme” and to release the projected costs.