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Parents who try to influence teachers face being reported

Pupils 'sending appreciative messages' as schools seek to protect exam grade integrity

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Exams will not take place. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Exams will not take place. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Exams will not take place. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Parents and students who seek to influence a Leaving Cert grade awarded by teachers are to be reported to the Department of Education.

The move comes amid evidence of pupils quick off the mark to send messages of appreciation to teachers - which could be interpreted as seeking favourable treatment - after it was announced that grades calculated by teachers would replace traditional exams.

Contact

Many schools have already sought to head off the problem by advising teachers that tuition finished last Friday and not to have any more than necessary contact with their Leaving Cert pupils or parents.

The Department of Education, teachers, principals and school managers are determined to deter any attempts to compromise the integrity of teachers in the face of the unprecedented approach to assessment this year.

The exams have effectively been cancelled because of the logistical difficulties of trying to run them - even through August - because of social distancing and other public health requirements imposed by Covid-19.

Instead, subject teachers will award an estimated mark of what they believe their pupils would have achieved if they had sat the exams, under normal conditions, in June.

It will be signed off by the principal and sent to the department, which will use statistical methods to standardise results across the country, linked to traditional performance patterns.

There is unanimity within schools about the need for safeguards to protect teachers.

"We have to have arrangements in place whereby people can't be actively canvassing," said John Curtis, general secretary of the Joint Managerial Body, which represents management in more than half the second-level schools in Ireland.

National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals director Clive Byrne said necessary safeguards would need to be put in place.

He believes that under the protocol being worked on, if a teacher felt they were subject to inappropriate contact, they would make a note of it and report it to the principal, who in turn could report it to the department.

Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) president Seamus Lahart said teachers "should not be subject to any undue pressure whatsoever in relation to their role. The TUI's call for a protocol also envisages protection for students, as to favour one would be to put others at a disadvantage".

Tricky

Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) president Deirdre MacDonald also called for protections.

Work is continuing on agreeing a protocol around the nature of what may be permissible in terms of any engagement between teachers and pupils/parents and the consequence of any serious attempt to influence a teacher.

Finalising the detail of what would constitute serious lobbying will be tricky, with distinctions to be drawn between what may have been intended purely as a jokey comment and a serious attempt to influence.

Schools must also be mindful of the normal rites of passage associated with the end of school and the need for staff and sixth years to be able to connect and say goodbye to each other.

Meanwhile, details of the scale of the logistics involved in running exams have emerged and outline the "military precision" that would have been involved in marshalling students to and from exam halls.