1 February, 2023
Serious exam concerns must be urgently addressed
The Department of Education must act urgently to address teachers’ serious concerns regarding the moving of Leaving Certificate Exam Paper 1 in English and Irish to the end of fifth year for students entering fifth year this September, according to teacher unions and subject representatives.
Teacher unions the ASTI and the TUI, along with the subject associations for Irish and English – An Gréasán and INOTE – are implacably opposed to the plan, which they believe is flawed, educationally unsound and will increase stress among students.
The subject specifications for Irish and English have always been designed to be assessed in a student’s final school year. The proposals deviate from any possible suggestions in the NCCA Senior Cycle Review Advisory Report and are not aligned with the current Irish and English subject specifications. The Department has not presented educational evidence to support the proposals.
Miriam Duggan, ASTI President, said:
“The ASTI is extremely concerned at this unilateral decision taken without any consultation with teacher unions. Teachers’ training and experience in the classroom means they have a deep understanding of what will and what will not work for students. The Minister’s statement that the proposal is an ‘interim’ measure is a further cause for concern; it will not be ‘interim’ for the students sitting the Leaving Cert during this phase. This is a prime example of change for the sake of change, without any consideration of unintended consequences for students. This proposal must be withdrawn before it causes stress to students.”
Liz Farrell, TUI President, said:
“Unions and subject associations are in complete agreement that this aspect of change is retrograde, regressive and will only have a detrimental impact on the acquisition of language skills for students. It would particularly disadvantage the roughly 25% of students who either do not have access to, or who choose not to take up the option of Transition Year. Given all the possible interventions that could be asked of students and teachers, it beggars belief that one of the first aspects of "reform" introduced undermines the key tenets of that same process.”
Shane Ó Coinn, An Gréasán, said:
“This proposal came as a shock to us and since then no evidence of a sound educational or linguistic basis has been provided. Best international practice for learning a language is that oral language, writing, reading and aural skills be taught in tandem. The proposal means that some of these skills will only be assessed in fifth year, while other language skills will be assessed in sixth year. This will adversely affect students and severely hinder language learning. What’s more, the overall plan for Senior Cycle is that subjects will have a 40% non-exam component. Irish already has a 40% oral component.”
Kate Barry, INOTE, said:
“Up to now English language and literature have been interwoven into teaching and learning by teachers of English. Integrating these aspects contributes to the development of students’ critical thinking and writing skills. For example, English Paper 1 requires that students express themselves through writing, having been exposed to a variety of literature which is assessed in Paper 2. The announcement treats writing and critical thinking as stand-alone courses. There is no evidence that the Department has considered whether this new exam arrangement is aligned to the current English syllabus or benefits learning in any way.”