Urgent decision needed on Junior Cycle examinations

By piofficer, Tuesday, 16th February 2021 | 0 comments

The TUI is calling on the Minister for Education to clarify definitively the arrangements that will apply to this year’s Junior Certificate.  While, understandably, the focus to date has been on the arrangements for Leaving Certificate students there is also a cohort of over 60,000 students who do not know if their Junior Certificate exams will proceed. 

The TUI has been advised that, based on public health advice, it will not be possible logistically to hold the Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate exams in tandem in June in the normal manner.  In that context and with genuine regret, due solely to the COVID-19 pandemic, the TUI is of the view that the State Examination Commission (SEC) Junior Cycle exams cannot proceed this year and is calling on the Minister to confirm this to students, teachers and parents.  The TUI is making this request on the basis that no precedent would be set and that as soon as possible, hopefully in 2022, there would be reinstatement of the SEC Junior Cycle exams. 

In 2020, teachers including Principal and Deputy Principal Teachers successfully implemented alternative assessment arrangements for Junior Certificate students.  The TUI believes that a similar measure must be introduced for 2021 and announced immediately. 

The arrangements now required must provide Junior Cycle students with both state certification of completion of the Junior Cycle programme by the Department of Education and a report at school level.

An early decision in this regard will allow:

  • Appropriate alternative assessment arrangements to be designed, at school level – as was done last year - that will ensure Junior Cycle students remain productively engaged with learning until the end of the school year
  • alternative arrangements which factor in the challenges experienced by students during the periods of school closure – arrangements informed by principles of fairness and equity.
  • a clear pathway to finalise discussions on the Leaving Certificate Established/Leaving Certificate Applied and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programmes.
  • the alleviation of unnecessary, avoidable stress for students 

This decision would also prevent excessive workload and pressure for teachers and school management who are currently trying to ensure that Leaving Certificate students complete their SEC second components of assessments - for example, orals, project work, coursework - while also engaging in emergency remote teaching and learning for all other student cohorts.

Upon the phased return to school – hopefully later this month -  priority must be given to Leaving Certificate students to ensure that they have unimpeded access to the necessary school facilities and resources (for example, practical classrooms) to complete their studies. 

Obstacles, such as limiting access to workshops, practical labs and/or other practical rooms (that would occur if Junior Cycle students have to compete for the same), should not be put in their way.

Junior Cycle 2022

The TUI also seeks immediate clarification on Classroom Based Assessments for the 2022 Junior Cycle. TUI believes that flexibility is needed that would allow teachers, at school level, the discretion as to whether or not they should proceed, depending on the extent of access to facilities etc.   

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