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'Extremely worrying': ASTI to discuss legal protection over Leaving Cert grading with government

The ASTI has said that teachers need to be fully protected if there is a legal challenge to calculated grades.

Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

THE ASSOCIATION FOR Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and the Department of Education will meet today to discuss legal protection for teachers who are to grade Leaving Certificate students this year.

Last night, the union advised its members not to engage with the calculated grading system, introduced because of the Covid-19 pandemic, until a legal indemnity to give them adequate protection was up to a standard they require.

The Minister for Education yesterday published advice on the awarding of grades for the now-cancelled Leaving Certificate exams.

It included a protection to prevent teachers from paying some legal fees if a court challenge to a grade arises.

But ASTI General Secretary Kieran Christie told Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 that teachers needed clarification on other legal expenses, such as fees for stenographers or expert witnesses.

“The indemnity appears to cover legal expenses incurred only relating to solicitor costs, but as you know there are usually a host of other expenses that may need to be dealt with,” he said.

 

He also explained that the indemnity document that had been given to the ASTI was not specific enough when it came to the determination of costs in a case, and that the union had received advice that teachers could be liable for up to a third of costs.

Sinn Féin’s education spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has said it is  “extraordinary” that the issue has emerged.

“The minister needs to engage on an urgent basis with the union and to ensure that whatever adjustments are necessary to provide full protection is in place,” he said.

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“If the minister wants this to work then he needs to rectify this and get the union on board.”

Labour’s education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin described the development as “extremely worrying” and said it was an issue which highlighted the fragility of the calculated grading system.

“Without the vital support of the whole teaching body, the entire Leaving Cert is in jeopardy,” he said.

“The move by government to indemnify teachers and schools for fear of legal action by students and parents down the line raises serious questions about the legality of the exam.”

Officials from the union and the department will meet to discuss the issue later today.

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