Junior Cycle Reform

Minister should go “back to drawing board” on Junior Cycle reform – Mullen

School-based continuous assessment “risks the integrity” of the examination system

Independent University Senator Rónán Mullen today called on the Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan to reconsider her reform proposals for the Junior Cycle “in the interests of anonymity and fairness”.

Speaking in the Seanad, Senator Mullen argued that the continuous assessment component of the proposed examination system should be marked by external examiners rather than classroom teachers.

“In light of the fact that talks aimed at resolving the dispute over the new Junior Cycle have collapsed, I feel this is the appropriate time for the Minister to reconsider her proposals,” said Senator Mullen. “There is a reasonable middle ground here which ought to be considered, namely that project or portfolio work, making up 40% of the overall Junior Cycle mark, should be graded by external examiners rather than classroom teachers, in the interests of anonymity and fairness.”

Senator Mullen said, “Teachers remain opposed to evaluating continuous assessment and project work of their own students – which is being proposed by the Minister. There is a feeling among teachers that plans to have them mark project work are all about costs. I fully agree. We cannot risk the integrity of the State examinations system simply to cut costs.”

Senator Mullen highlighted the damaging loss of anonymity involved in school-based continuous assessment. “Despite the many flaws of our State examinations system, its outstanding advantage is the absolute anonymity afforded to students who can rest assured that their work will be graded based solely on its merit. Continuous assessment and anonymity are not mutually exclusive concepts. We can both recognise the value of limited continuous assessment in the Junior Cycle and also retain the anonymity which so benefits students.”
“We owe this to teachers, who would otherwise be put under enormous pressure by both parents and students. We owe this to students who ought to be confident that their work is marked objectively and based only on its merits,” Senator Mullen said. “It’s time for the Minister to go back to the drawing board.”