Important message from TUI President Seamus Lahart – Factual information on current State Exams situation

By piofficer, Monday, 13th April 2020 | 0 comments

TUI members, I am writing in light of the government’s decision, announced by the Minister on Friday, to delay the Leaving Cert exam until late July.

I regret that you may have received some gross misinformation that was circulating on social media over the past days.

We in TUI will keep our members informed with reliable, factual information to give as much certainty as is possible throughout this unprecedented situation.

As you are aware, the TUI issued a statement on Friday welcoming the Government’s commitment to holding the Leaving Certificate examinations, albeit on a delayed basis. It read

‘We recognise that Ireland is entering a crucial stage in the fight against this pandemic. Teachers are fully committed to supporting their students at this challenging time, as has been demonstrated in recent weeks. Working to meet the needs of our Leaving Cert students is a priority and we welcome the government’s commitment to ensuring these young people have access to a high quality, fair and independent state exams system that enjoys public trust.

In relation to the Minister’s request that teachers and schools facilitate a period of re-engagement by Leaving Certificate students in a school setting before the examinations, we are asking members to engage in this process as a whole-school response to meet the needs of our students.

We also welcome the Minister’s commitment to comprehensive engagement with the unions to ensure that the process runs as effectively as possible and addresses matters of equity that have been brought into sharp relief by the current circumstances.’

I am cognisant of the excellent work being done by teachers in continuing to teach their students under difficult circumstances  from home.

So to clarify,

Schools (meaning remote teaching of classes) will close/finish on the 31st of May, as always, and the Minister has asked that everyone at that point take a break for two weeks.

He has asked that schools/teachers be available remotely after these two weeks, not to teach remotely as you do during term time but to maintain a link with Leaving Certificate students and help iron out issues or queries that they may have. This, like everything we are being asked to do, is unprecedented and exceptional.

It is our clear understanding that schools, based on the advice of the health authorities, schools will continue be closed at this time. Therefore no direct teaching in a school setting can take place – or is being requested. This is a time for individual study, revision and consolidation by students, but with the strong advice of the TUI - and indeed of the Minister, Department and school management authorities - that they pace their work carefully and take regular breaks.

It is then expected that, from mid-July, there will be as the Minister has said two weeks of school time for 6th Year Leaving Certificate students. This is not a dictat. We know there are valid reasons why some teachers cannot return to school, and we will, of course, make representations on behalf of those members to ensure that they are accommodated.

The TUI is asking members to engage in this process as a whole-school response to meet the needs of our students. As teachers, we are committed to doing what we can to help our country and our communities to meet the challenge of the Covid-19 public health emergency.

The nature of the school-based engagement will depend on the particular needs of the students and the context of the individual school. Teaching two full weeks of the normal timetable is not envisaged and, given social distancing requirements, would not be practicable.

Then the LC exams will begin. The superintending and marking of the exams is SEC work, and those who wish to carry out this work will do so under contract to the SEC. We have also been assured that Students with special educational needs or those with health issues will be fully supported in sitting the rescheduled Leaving Certificate examinations in a safe environment.

I, as President of TUI and the TUI Executive, continue to do our best, leading you through uncharted territory and through unprecedented times.  

In line with the latest advice from the Health Authorities, there simply was no alternative arrangements for running the exam other than from late July on.

We cannot and will not contradict the Health Authority in this crisis. The July/August arrangement is the latest date possible, in line with medical advice to run the Exam and to facilitate the progression of our LC Students to College or their future careers.

As teachers we want to preserve the integrity of the State Exams. We want our students to engage with the Exam which they have been preparing for and this is the only viable option available to our students, to government and to us. We do not favour Predictive Grading; nor was it offered as an alternative.

The decisions announced by Government on Friday last were the high level decisions only. The detail of how best to implement the decisions has yet to be worked out.

The Minister has promised intensive engagement with us in this regard. This promise ensures that our members will have a voice in how we proceed. The DES and The SEC will engage with us to see what is possible and reasonable and, indeed, what is not possible or reasonable in this new context.

Focussed discussion and agreement for a sensible approach will be needed in regard to the requirements in particular subject areas. Those discussions will take place, and we will insist on reasonable arrangements that are capable of being realised and that do not cause undue stress for students, teachers or school management.

Issues relating to outstanding practical exams and projects have to be addressed, and we will, with your help and advice, ensure that these assessment components can continue while protecting the health and safety of students, teachers, and the community.

The TUI has set up a dedicated email address – examqueries2020@tuimail.ie. So that you, our members, can inform the negotiations that will soon begin.

As for JC and the concerns raised, let me assure you the details have not been finalized. The only decision taken so far is that the written examinations that had been due to take place in June have been cancelled.

However, we have a full and clear commitment from government and the Department that no precedent is going to be established based on measures put in place to deal with the unprecedented challenge of a national public health emergency. Any such measure is for this year only.

The misinformation and conjecture to the contrary are absolutely without foundation.

We will engage with the DES and SEC about all relevant JC matters. and you will be advised of factual developments

Finally, may I take the opportunity to say:

As teachers, we are capable of extraordinary things in ordinary times. In these exceptional times, I urge you to do the things that will help families and communities nationally as we seek to remain safe and protect each other.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and please let your colleagues and friends know that the TUI remains determined to protect them, our students, our communities and our country at this time of critical challenge.

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