‘Full confidence’ in teachers and praise for resilience of students but concerns remain over plans to replace Leaving Certificate with predicted grades 

‘Full confidence’ in teachers and praise for resilience of students but concerns remain over plans to replace Leaving Certificate with predicted grades 
Picture: Denis Scannell.

Breda Graham

A Cork principal has said she has “full confidence” in her colleagues’ ability to fairly grade their students and has paid tribute to the “resilience, dedication and ability to remain positive” of her students.

It comes after the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) joined the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) in backing the new system which will replace the Leaving Certificate examinations, but said it has “huge concerns”.

The ASTI held lengthy talks on the issue, which began on Friday and continued late into Saturday.

The union said it has a number of major concerns with the process, which it is calling on Education Minister Joe McHugh to address as a matter of urgency.

Michelle Sliney, principal of Coláiste Choilm in Ballincollig, said she hopes the Government’s decision will allow students “to now look forward to the next really exciting times in their lives” after a particularly stressful period.

“It’s been a very tough time for students,” she said.

“They’re missing their interactions in school, they’re missing their end of year celebrations and their graduation celebration at the end of sixth year and that is regrettable, but they understand that that’s the way it has to be now given the situation with Covid-19.

“I have to say that my experience with the students, they were fiercely resilient and very dedicated to their work and very committed to their work and their attitude to all of this was an inspiration to us all.

“I have to admire their resilience, dedication and ability to remain positive throughout all of this and I really hope that everything works out for them.”

Ms Sliney said the school is putting together a summary of guidelines for teachers and that she has “full confidence” in the professionalism of the teachers at Coláiste Choilm and their ability to fairly grade their students.

“They will deliberate on this and they will meet in their subject departments and they will come out with the best deliberations, I have every trust in them,” she said.

“Teachers have plenty of evidence over the last six years on which to base their decision. The decisions made will be professional.”

She said the added responsibility on schools is another adjustment that “has to be done now”.

ASTI said it has a number of major concerns with the process, which it is calling on Education Minister Joe McHugh to address as a matter of urgency.
ASTI said it has a number of major concerns with the process, which it is calling on Education Minister Joe McHugh to address as a matter of urgency.

The ASTI said it will be seeking a number of clarifications from the Department of Education in relation to its concerns.

ASTI president Deirdre MacDonald said she acknowledges difficult decisions have to be made in “extraordinary times” to ensure Leaving Cert students are enabled to enter the next stage of their lives, but that the process outlined by Mr McHugh was “far from ideal”.

“However, we will be striving to improve the process in order to deliver fairness, objectivity, and equity for all students and protect the professional integrity of teachers,” she said.

“Fairness, objectivity and equity are the foundation stones of our highly credible and trusted state exams system and we must endeavour to uphold these in whatever way we can during this pandemic. We owe this to our students.”

Meanwhile, Mr McHugh has said it is too early to say how schools will reopen fully in September due to the need for social distancing.

The education minister told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics programme yesterday that he has set up an advisory group to examine the issue and the group will work towards opening schools.

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