The Education Minister has defended her plans to overhaul the Leaving Certificate process during a speech at a teachers’ union annual conference.
Norma Foley told the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) conference that the reform plans will require everyone in the secondary education sector to be part of the process.
She also said she was conscious of the “significant changes” that will be made at senior cycle, adding that teachers will be involved in a consultation process before changes are agreed.
Ms Foley’s reform plan to the senior cycle has been a huge feature of the teacher conferences, including TUI and Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) in recent days.
“The vision I outlined is based on three key objectives: to empower its students to meet the challenges of the 21st century; to enrich the student experience and build on what’s strong in the current system; and to embed wellbeing and reduce student stress levels,” Ms Foley said.
“For the benefit of all our students both now and in the future, it is important to bring that vision to life.
“To do so, will require each one of us to be part of the process to build the next stage in our country’s education history.
“I am conscious that in introducing significant change at senior cycle, it is essential that the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), State Examinations Commission, the teacher support services, the department and schools, including you as teachers, can work through the changes together over a period of time.
“Senior cycle redevelopment must address the diversity of students learning needs and strengths.
“It must provide accessible and equally valued learning pathways in school and we must broaden the ways we assess and accredit students achievements.
“I fully recognise that we must also make sure that the conditions for change are in place. I am determined that the curriculum design and teacher professional development will support the use of a broad range of methodologies and learning experiences.
“I strongly believe that it is essential for teachers to be involved in co-designing our curricula and assessment approach and I will facilitate the allocation of time and professional development to enable this to happen.
“We will learn lessons from previous experiences and other systems in this regard and the NCCA has been asked to conduct research, including a consultation process with teachers to better inform us of what is needed for improved professional support.
“We will ensure that the teachers’ reports are developed and delivered to you with teachers ahead of introducing the revised arrangements.”
The education reform, announced last month, will place more emphasis on continuous teacher assessments, including practical and oral elements.
The proposals will see a phased updating of the curriculum for all Leaving Certificate subject areas.
The revision will see the introduction of non-exam-based assessment components that will make up 40% of total marks, reducing the written examination to 60%.
TUI president, Martin Marjoram, said change to the system and removal of barriers could not have “come soon enough for us”.
“The TUI has always supported additional components in providing opportunities for students to fully display the range of their abilities and achievements and in removing some of the focus from the examination,” Mr Marjoram told the conference.
“Twenty-seven of 41 Leaving Certificate subjects already feature at least one additional component of assessment, and we favour more, provided, of course, that they are appropriate to the subject, measure proficiencies which cannot be measured in the written examination and most importantly are externally assessed by the State Examinations Commission.”
Ms Foley also praised school staff for their work during the pandemic, and for how they are handling the Ukraine crisis and welcoming Ukrainian refugees in schools across the country.
Ms Foley added: “The public service ethos, which was a hallmark of the past two years, is again shining through with the welcome that schools up and down the country are showing to those families in great need and hardship who come from Ukraine.
“The trade union movement has always played a hugely significant role in terms of social conscience and helping the most vulnerable.
“I know that the teaching and other unions involved in the education sector have thrown themselves foursquare behind efforts to address this humanitarian crisis.
“I am determined that supports for schools will be put in place so that we in the education sector, together, can offer the hand of friendship, support and solidarity to the young people of Ukraine.
“Coming through the pandemic, there are learnings that will help us through this new phase, both in recovery from the lasting effects of the pandemic and with managing new demands arising from the humanitarian crisis.
“Together we have learned the power and the value of the collective voice and collective.”
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