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ASTI resumes talks with Government over Leaving Cert plans

The union walked away from talks earlier this week, but have returned to the table after engagement with the Education Minister.

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Education Minister Norma Foley holds a press conference on calculated grades at the department of Education in Dublin (PA)

Education Minister Norma Foley holds a press conference on calculated grades at the department of Education in Dublin (PA)

Education Minister Norma Foley holds a press conference on calculated grades at the department of Education in Dublin (PA)

Teaching union ASTI has resumed talks with the Department of Education over ensuring this year’s Leaving Cert goes ahead.

The union walked away from talks earlier this week, saying the proposals were “not viable”.

The ASTI said it was unhappy that the controversial calculated grades system was being prioritised over coursework, orals and practical exams.

The minister was unequivocal in her statement of commitment to holding the Leaving Certificate this yearASTI statement

Following a “constructive” meeting with Education Minister Norma Foley on Friday, the union announced on Saturday morning that it would resume discussions.

The news has been welcomed by Ms Foley.

An ASTI statement said: “The minister was unequivocal in her statement of commitment to holding the Leaving Certificate this year.

“On that basis, the ASTI believes that doubts regarding the staging of additional component elements of this year’s Leaving Certificate examinations have been substantially alleviated. We expect the minister to ensure that they will take place.”

It said it had received assurances from Ms Foley that the lack of data to inform the calculated grades system will be addressed and that teachers will not be required to rank students in order of merit, as they did in 2020.

“We will continue to constructively engage to seek to ensure ways are found to facilitate this year’s Leaving Certificate students in moving on with their lives” the union said.

A spokesperson for Ms Foley welcomed the ASTI’s return and noted their “willingness to engage on the agenda that has already been set out in the process.”

They added: “Intensive engagement is continuing with the education stakeholders to advance progress and provide certainty and clarity at the earliest possible time.”

Government hopes of providing exams clarity to tens of thousands of students by next week had been thrown into doubt after ASTI withdrew from talks at the 11th hour on Thursday.

The union said Government proposals on the Leaving Cert were “not viable”, and they were unhappy the controversial calculated grades system was being prioritised over traditional exams.

In a statement following Friday’s meeting, the Department of Education said Ms Foley had extended an invitation to the ASTI to re-engage with the talks process.

“Minister Foley expressed her confidence that the collective wisdom of all stakeholders can ensure that a pathway forward can be found,” a spokesman said.

“Discussions continued with all the other partners today and will continue throughout the weekend.

“The minister again reiterated her commitment to providing clarity and certainty to students at the earliest possible time.”

On Friday, the Further Education Minister described as “beyond unhelpful” the union’s decision to walk away from the negotiations.

Simon Harris said all parties needed to “get in a room, get this sorted and stay in a room” until a deal is reached.

Mr Harris said the “most sense” was coming from Leaving Cert students who were “calling it as it is”.

“They need clarity, they need a plan,” he said.

“They need this uncertainty to be taken away from them and Minister Foley is working 24/7 to deliver that.

“She’s engaging with all stakeholders very intensively and it is beyond unhelpful that anyone would walk away from that process.”

He also thanked the TUI for staying involved in the process.

“My message is simple,” Mr Harris said. “Get in a room, get this sorted and stay in a room until it’s sorted.

“Come on, we’ve got to get this done – there are no perfect solutions. Let’s be honest, this is a pandemic.”

PA


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