Senator Eileen Flynn
Independent Senator Eileen Flynn has credited teachers unions for saying their members would not co-operate with in-school teaching and repeated her call for alternatives to the Leaving Cert.
The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) and Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) directed their members not to co-operate with Government’s plans for in-school teaching in advance of the Government’s U-turn on in-school learning for Leaving Cert students.
“Fair play to the unions. Minister Foley and the Government should have more respect for teachers and students. Clear dialogue was needed in this situation, and that apparently did not take place.
“The Leaving Certificate is not the be all and end all. The physical and mental health of our teachers and students also has to be a priority.” she said.
The ASTI said it had not been consulted before the announcement on in-school teaching was made.
Senator Flynn added she has been getting a lot of e-mails from young people around the country and felt it was important to listen to them.
"They are worried about being in a school setting while the cases of Covid-19 are rising in this country. They are concerned about potentially bringing the virus home to vulnerable people in their families.
"They ask why exams are going on here when they’ve been cancelled in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales.
“We’re just putting so much pressure on young people,” she said. “As a youth worker, as someone who has worked with vulnerable young people, I’m afraid that young people will be stressed not only through fear of the virus, but the extra fear around the Leaving Cert.”
Senator Flynn said the calculated grade system worked last year and also noted that young people in working-class areas were able to reach their full potential through that system.
She said the coronavirus crisis should be an opportunity to look more closely at different ways of assessment.
“I’ve said before that we must look differently at our Leaving Cert and how it’s done. In my opinion it would be better if we were to do a continuous assessment.”
Senator Flynn said that as the department looks to further online learning, they must also ensure all students have the resources and devices they need to take part.
Earlier this week Senator Flynn had called for schools to remain closed as part of stricter restrictions to stem the spread of the virus.
She said: “The department has to make sure students have everything they need to learn online. I’ve raised this at meetings of the Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.
"The department is telling young people to study from home, but some young people don’t have the resources to do that. They don’t have the devices they need. They don’t have reliable broadband.
“And this is creating additional barriers by creating more stress for our students,” said the Ardara woman.
Senator Flynn added: “Desperate times call for desperate measures. This is a desperate time for Ireland right now and we need to put measures in place that keep everybody safe, including our sixth-year students and our teachers.”
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