It is the strong position of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) that the traditional State Examinations must take place this year. The current circumstances are radically different from previous years and there is no justification for offering additional options to students. On that basis, the TUI will not support any other options.
Recent contributions from some political parties around this issue are unhelpful and will inevitably lead to more uncertainty in school communities that are already struggling with the varied consequences of the pandemic. We are already receiving reports of students disengaging because of an expectation that they will not have to sit examinations. This is very damaging to the education system and to the prospects of those students.
Schools have remained open throughout this academic year and despite obvious challenges at present due to infections and isolation requirements, the consistent messaging from those with expertise in the area is that current high numbers of COVID-19 cases will fall in the near future. The scheduling of Orals and Music Practicals in the traditional Easter break has created additional tuition time that would not previously have been available, balancing somewhat the losses in time that students have experienced.
In 2020 and 2021, teachers demonstrated flexibility and commitment by engaging with emergency assessment processes on a ‘without precedent’ basis so that final year students could progress to the next stage of their lives. Our co-operation with these processes was only on the basis of absolute necessity and this remains the case.
The standardisation process was vitally important in the last two years, but cannot be replicated this year because more than half of students in some schools have no Junior Cycle data. In other schools, where there is no Transition Year programme, no student will have Junior Cycle data for the standardisation process.
Advocates for a repeat of the emergency methods are therefore advocating for something that is either impossible or else will be radically changed and involve historical school data that would be hugely unfair for many students.
We will continue to engage with the other stakeholders. We believe that further consideration could be given to extending the breadth of topics covered in papers or adjusting marking schemes, and any other reasonable measures that might take account of this year’s circumstances as we see how the situation evolves.
But the TUI’s clear position is that the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations across all Leaving Certificate programmes must return this year, with all additional and second components of assessment such as Orals, Practicals and project work etc. in place for the benefit of all students.