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TUI says 'traditional' Junior and Leaving Cert exams must return next year

The teachers’ union has said that certainty must be given to students now, seven months from when the written State exams are held.

Leaving Cert examinations hall.
Leaving Cert examinations hall.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE TEACHERS’ UNION of Ireland (TUI) has said that if schools are being kept open as a priority, it will “not countenance or accept” any attempt not to hold the written State exams next year.

The traditional Leaving Cert written exams were not held this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and instead, a system of Calculated Grades was introduced that would base students’ Leaving Cert results on an assessment by their teachers, followed by ‘standardisation’ by an algorithm commissioned by the Department of Education.

Although this resulted in more high grades than the average year, and allowed Leaving Cert students to progress to third-level or work this year, problems with the system were highlighted by students, parents and teachers.

Two errors were then found in the ‘standardisation’ algorithm, which affected over 6,000 Leaving Cert students and 7,200 grades; an independent review is being carried out

Although the Minister for Education Norma Foley has said that the intention now is that Leaving Cert 2021 ”will be the traditional Leaving Certificate as we would know it”, the TUI has said that more certainty is needed. 

“This must now be confirmed,” the TUI said today, calling the traditional approach to the “highly trusted” written Leaving Cert exam.

…With seven months to June 2021, there is ample time to ensure that the customary State Examinations – which enjoy significant and unmatched public trust – can run smoothly and safely.

The Union also said that the Department of Education “breached and betrayed the trust of teachers” by reneging on an assurance for the 2020 Calculated Grades system that the student ranking would only be available in response to a data access request.

These class rankings were given to students who wished to appeal their grades, and were made available through the student portal from 28 September, after the Department of Education received legal advice. 

The union said that it was only done by teachers “to improve the accuracy of the data collected”, and the decision to release the data to students was “a hugely damaging move” and served “absolutely no useful practical or moral purpose”.

TUI general secretary Michael Gillespie said:

Students and teachers need certainty, and the Minister must provide this by confirming that the customary State examinations will take place in June 2021.

“Our experience of Calculated Grades leaves us in no doubt that the customary State Examinations are more reliable and enjoy greater trust among the public at large and, critically, among students and teachers.”

Gillespie added that some schools are “hedging their bets” by scheduling more formal assessments that can be used as an evidential base for the award of Calculated Grades, in case the traditional exams don’t go ahead.

“This is leading to a distortion of teaching and learning patterns and is placing an insupportable burden of additional work and unrelenting pressure on students and teachers,” he said.

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