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Junior Cert students to receive 'certificates of completion' from State and written report from school

Plans to hold a school-based version of the Junior Cert in the autumn have been cancelled.

The 2011 Junior Cert exams at Trinity Comprehensive School in Ballymun.
The 2011 Junior Cert exams at Trinity Comprehensive School in Ballymun.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE GOVERNMENT HAS announced that plans to hold a school-based version of the Junior Cert in the autumn have been cancelled, after some schools refused to hold these types of tests.

Instead, all third year Junior Cycle students are to be awarded certificates for the completion of Junior Cycle by the Department of Education and Skills. This cert will list the subjects taken, but not grades.

As soon as possible after the end of the current school year, students will receive a written school report on their learning achievements in each subject, Education Minister Joe McHugh confirmed today. 

This report card from the school will list the grades attained for each subject.

The announcement comes after a meeting this morning with the stakeholder advisory group on the State examinations.

It had been announced previously that schools would have to hold a school-based version of the Junior Cert to assess students; but today, schools were given the autonomy to decide whether to run school-based assessments or not, and to decide what form they take.

The different options schools have to assess their students, the Department of Education said, include: school-designed examinations, tasks, projects, assignments, essay style questions, presentations, or other tasks agreed at a local level.

Guidance for schools on reporting to students and parents, developed with the advice of the advisory group of stakeholders, will be published by the Education Department.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon McHugh said that the Junior Cert this year “won’t be in the form of an examination as we know it”.

“Examinations for State examinations, they have to happen at the same time on the same day, with the same information and same question,” he said, stating that schools themselves will have autonomy over the process. 

McHugh emphasised that Junior Cert students would have assessments, rather than exams.

“Schools will ensure that the students, the work that they’ve done over a period of three years, they’ll have to formulate the best way of assessing that.

Maybe there’s a research project in geography we can ask them to do for example, so it’s giving them that autonomy, but it’s also trusting the school, and trusting the teachers.

The minister said he expects the majority of schools will opt to assess the work carried out to date.

He said that the decisions announced today were made “with the health and wellbeing of students, parents and teachers at the forefront of our thinking”. 

It gives students and their families more clarity and certainty. It also gives schools freedom to decide how best to assess the progress of students following three years of hard work and learning. 

There had been concerns raised last week on behalf of the small number of students who leave school after the junior cycle to take up apprenticeships and whether they would have sufficient qualifications to present. 

It was clarified that the certificate of completion will be acceptable for students seeking to do apprenticeships.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has welcomed this afternoon’s announcement, stating that the approach is informed by principles of fairness and equity.

TUI President Seamus Lahart said:

“We welcome the certainty that these revised arrangements provide at a time of worry, stress and uncertainty for students, parents and teachers.

“Following consultation with members, TUI made clear to the Department of Education and Skills in recent discussions that requiring Senior Cycle students to sit examinations designed for Junior Cycle would be regressive educationally and would further complicate what is likely to be an extremely challenging process of re-opening schools in September.

“Any such arrangements would also be time-consuming, would cause unnecessary stress for students and would unacceptably increase the workload of teachers and school management,” he said.

The TUI also welcomed the confirmation that arrangements will be put in place for the small cohort of adult learners, who would otherwise have taken the exams in summer, to take the final exam in the subject or subjects for which they are entered at a later date.

Last week, plans were announced to hold the Leaving Cert exams from 29 July; exactly how the exams will be carried out will be confirmed in the first week of June, McHugh said.

- with reporting from Christina Finn 

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