Republic of Ireland news

Coronavirus: Leaving Cert row after leading teachers' union refuses to back grading plans

Irish government plans for the Leaving Certificate exams are in disarray
Aine McMahon, Press Association

Irish government plans for the Leaving Certificate exams are in disarray after the Republic's second-largest teaching union said it will not cooperate with the new grading system in its current form.

The Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) is advising its teachers not to engage with the new system until they are offered stronger legal protections by the State.

Following the decision by Education Minister Joe McHugh to cancel the Leaving Certificate exam in June, students are set to receive calculated grades for the first time based on teachers' estimates.

READ MORE: Leaving Cert cancelled with predictive grades to be used

Teachers will be asked to provide an estimated percentage mark for each student for each subject.

Under the new system, students will have access to an online portal from next week where they will have to confirm if they wish to receive a calculated grade.

ASTI said an indemnity announced by the Department of Education on Thursday protects schools and principals but could mean teachers are left to pay some of their own legal costs if a student decides to take legal action over their grades.

Joe McHugh said holding the Leaving Cert exam would have been "impossible" 

ASTI general secretary Kieran Christie told RTE radio the legal protection for teachers falls short and the union is advising its members not to undertake any work on the grading process until it is resolved.

"Yesterday we were presented with a text on an indemnity that fell short of the clarity that's needed for teachers to undertake this work with confidence," he said.

"The indemnity document we were presented with lacks specificity on that. And our legal advisers inform us that teachers could be caught for up to one-third of the costs of the case.

"Have we confidence in the indemnity that has been put before us? The honest answer is no. Up until this morning, teachers have been working on it where there is a doubt about the legal indemnity available.

"I can tell you, we will move might and mane to break this impasse and remove the barriers so teachers can get on with this work," he said.

Mr Christie said the union is working with legal advisers and the Department of Education to resolve these issues.

"We believe they can be resolved and must be resolved."

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Republic of Ireland news