ASTI advises teachers not to engage with LC guidelines
The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland is advising its Leaving Certificate teachers not to engage with the new calculated grades system until an indemnity to give them legal protection is up to the standard that it and its lawyers require.
ASTI President Deirdre MacDonald said teachers could not be asked to be involved unless they were totally covered.
She said the legal protection did not give teachers 100% cover.
Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, Ms MacDonald said teachers were taking on very onerous and unprecedented work and they needed to be indemnified.
The second post-primary teachers' union, TUI, has this evening welcomed the legal indemnity offered to teachers, as well as other safeguards to protect teachers from canvassing by parents.
The joint managerial body which represents school managers has also expressed satisfaction with the indemnity offered.
Parents who attempt to canvass or pressurise their children's Leaving Certificate teachers about calculated grades will be reported to the Department of Education, according to the guidelines issued to all post-primary schools this evening.
The guidelines set out detailed procedures to be followed by teachers and school principals who are involved in calculating grades for this year’s Leaving Certificate students.
They include an indemnity for teachers and school leaders to protect them from possible legal action. This protection is being extended on the basis that teachers and schools are acting correctly on behalf of the State.
The guidelines outline a protocol to be followed in the event that lobbying or anything that could be perceived to be lobbying by parents, guardians or students takes place.
The document, which has been agreed with the teacher trade unions and school management bodies, states that teachers and schools must not be subjected to any kind of inducement or influence, pressure or coercion by a parent, guardian or student.
This includes any financial, economic or personal inducement, including gifts, that might be perceived to compromise the impartiality and independence of a teacher, or interfere with or undermine the integrity of the new calculated grades model.
Teachers are instructed to follow a number of steps after any contact, regardless of whether they believe it was intended to interfere with the process.
They include not engaging, and informing the person that they are not allowed to discuss anything related to the student or the process.
Teachers are being told to create a formal record of any contact that persists, with details such as the name of the person and the student, and to give it to the school.
School principals have been instructed to inform the Department of Education.
As an additional safeguard the school principal will subsequently have to affirm to the Department in writing that the marks awarded to the student in question by the school were arrived at correctly and independently.
The State has also extended a legal protection or indemnity to teachers, principals and school management, which can be invoked if an individual teacher or principal or school board of management is sued.
The document states that the indemnity is subject to conditions around cooperation with the State in defending any legal case that may arise, and can only be invoked where a person has made every reasonable effort to carry out their role correctly.
Teachers and schools had sought the indemnity amid concerns that they could be sued by students who are unhappy with their results.
Under the new process, schools award marks to a student, and a ranking. This data is subsequently converted into a calculated grade by a new unit - known as the executive office - that has been established in the Department of Education.
The 40-page document sent to schools this evening gives granular detail as to how the system will work, and the role of teachers and the school.
In relation to potential conflicts of interest - for instance where a teacher may have their own son or daughter or another close relation in their class - additional oversight measures will come in to play.
They include a declaration of the conflict of interest to the school principal. Where possible the teacher will be asked to step aside. However, if there are no other subject teachers who will be able to take their place then any marks awarded by the teacher will be approved and countersigned by the school's deputy principal.
Students will be able to use an online portal to indicate the subject level they wish to be examined in - Higher or Ordinary.
While teachers are being asked to create an estimated mark for every student, the guidelines state that "in due course" students will be given the opportunity to opt in or opt out of receiving calculated grades.
In relation to the use of evidence of a student's performance and the role of mock exams in reaching a conclusion, the guidelines acknowledge that mock exams can be marked severely or leniently by a teacher in order to encourage or motivate a student. "This is why teachers’ professional judgement is vital in coming to an accurate estimation", it states. It says judgement needs to be "suitably informed by relevant data, but should not be overly constrained or dominated by such data".
Only work completed by a student before 12 March should be taken into account. Coursework that a student was working on for submission to the State Examinations Commission as part of the Leaving Certificate process can also inform a teacher’s professional judgement.
Schools have been asked to provide their "best estimate" of the mark that a student would be "most likely" to achieve, not a mark they would hope the student would achieve "on a good day".
Teachers have also been advised to "remain alert" to possible unconscious bias, such as a student’s socio-economic or family background, the document states.
Schools and teachers have been promised training in the new system.
They have not yet begun the process of calculating marks.
September school return a 'mammoth planning task'
Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the Irish National Teachers Organisation has said that getting children back to school in September will be a "mammoth planning task", particularly in rural Ireland, where many children travel by school bus.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, John Boyle warned that it may not be possible for all children to return at the same time in September.
He said the INTO has been engaging with stakeholders to prepare for the return of children to school, and to see if it is possible for all children to return at the same time.
The INTO is "certainly up for that challenge", Mr Boyle added.