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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Teachers’ unions call for traditional State Exams to take place amid criticism over ‘unhelpful’ speculation about hybrid model

The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) have called for State Exams to take place in the traditional fashion while criticising the “unhelpful” speculation surrounding the hybrid model where students had a choice of either sitting the exam or receive a calculated grade (SEC-Accredited Grade).

The ASTI highlighted the issue that vast numbers of students who are due to sit their Leaving Cert this year had not undertaken their Junior Cert examinations when it was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic to which they stated, “This means that there is no Junior Cert data from externally assessed Junior Cert exams available for these students”.

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The ASTI had originally pushed for a traditional system in 2021 for State Exams instead of a hybrid model, however, the Department of Health has stated that there are no plans for a calculated grades system this year but representatives from the Labour Party and Sinn Féin have called for a hybrid model to be re-introduced.

Sinn Féin and the Labour Party are not the only ones calling for a hybrid model as the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) is also supporting a hybrid model, highlighting the disruption that has been caused as a result of Covid-19-related absences among teachers and students.

However, the ASTI and the TUI remain opposed to a hybrid system, issuing separate statements where they criticise suggestions about a hybrid model for State Exams this year. Representing approximately 18,500 secondary school teachers, the ASTI announced that it was committed to an externally-assessed Leaving Certificate this year that would be in line with the students’ and teachers’ expectations while emphasising the importance of a “high quality, fair” and Independent State Exams system.

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“Speculation regarding previous one-off grading processes during the pandemic is unhelpful at this stage, particularly given that the data used for these processes is not available for all 2022 Leaving Cert students.”

They added that the hybrid system is unjustifiable and that this year’s circumstances are entirely different to the previous years while stating that recent contributions from some political parties around the issue were unhelpful and would “inevitably lead to more uncertainty in school communities that are already struggling with the varied consequences of the pandemic.”

Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire stated over the weekend that this year was not an ordinary exam year and that the traditional Leaving Cert would not be appropriate. Labour TD Aodghán Ó Ríordáin stated that the disruption to students meant the fairest thing to undertake would be a hybrid model.

Schools have been drastically affected by the pandemic from classes being sent home due to vast teacher absences while other students, particularly in the Special Education sector, have missed out on classes as Special Education Teachers were used to look after other classes when substitutes were unavailable.

The State Examinations are a massive concern for students and parents, as well as the conflict of interests arising from the hybrid model or the traditional model. Although both teachers’ unions want the hybrid model abolished this year, others suggest that the Covid-19 situation, especially with Omicron involved, is uncertain.

Recent data shows that the new variant does not result in severe illness or hospitalisation as much as other variants, however, it remains highly transmissible as well as the dominant variant in Ireland, placing a strain on both the health service and the education sector.

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