The TUI Executive Committee meeting tonight noted the Government’s decision in relation to the Leaving Certificate. The Union recognises that a number of key issues that it brought forward in the intensive negotiations on behalf of members have been addressed. These include the retention of the established Leaving Certificate and of second components of assessment, protections and safeguards against any form of canvassing and lobbying. A commitment has been secured by the TUI for the introduction of legislative protections for teachers. The TUI also noted that, following our request yesterday, final clarity has been given on the Junior Certificate examinations.
Leaving Certificate – the gold standard
The fundamental belief of the TUI is that the Leaving Certificate continues to be the gold standard that enjoys public confidence and national and international credibility. Our demand that it not be set aside, as had been sought from certain quarters, has been vindicated.
However, while acknowledging the decision to proceed with the Leaving Certificate Examinations in June and recognising the need for a system of accredited grades as a contingency, given the ongoing public health emergency, the Union tonight expressed significant reservations and deep disappointment about elements of the decision.
Regressive decision in relation to additional assessment components
In particular, the TUI said that the Minister’s decision to apply marks awarded for oral and practical examinations only to the established Leaving Certificate process is regrettable and regressive. Those marks should also be applied to the SEC Accredited Grades process as sought by the TUI in the practical concrete proposals that it brought to the negotiations. Provision of a separate estimated mark in respect of the orals and practicals for the SEC Accredited Grade is a poor second best, albeit better than the absence of such a separate mark.
Ironically, this element of the Government’s decision is likely to have two damaging effects - hurting the credibility of the SEC Accredited Grades process and reducing the numbers who will sit the Leaving Certificate examinations in June.
Administrative convenience at the expense of educational integrity
As public health advice supports the holding of oral and practical assessments, it would appear that, in respect of this issue, administrative convenience trumped educational considerations.
Ongoing engagement demanded
The TUI believes that ongoing engagement with the Department and the State Examinations Commission in the coming days and weeks is essential and will ensure that the views and concerns of teachers are central to this process and that the professional integrity of teachers is protected.
Rank ordering – TUI secures protections
Crucially, the TUI Executive Committee noted that the Department breached and betrayed the trust of teachers by reneging on an assurance given to teachers, in relation to the 2020 calculated grades system, that the student ranking would only be available in response to a data access request. Determined to ensure that our members would not be betrayed again, the TUI demanded and has secured water-tight protections in this regard.
Further adjustment of Leaving Certificate papers required
Taking into consideration the difficulties experienced by students and their teachers in covering the full programme of study because of the disrupted nature of the past year, the TUI also called for immediate confirmation that there will be further adjustments to the June Leaving Certificate examination papers. This could be achieved - without compromising the integrity of the examinations - by reducing the number of questions to be answered without reducing the duration of the exams.
Critically, our engagement with these measures cannot and will not be regarded as a precedent for or as agreement to operate any such measures in future years. Our engagement with this process is only on the basis of necessity due to the national health emergency. Public Health advice permitting, we envisage the Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate running in the established manner in 2022.
Consultation with members
The TUI will consult with members in the days ahead and the Executive Committee will meet to consider developments and documentation and will seek further clarifications, where necessary.