Junior Cycle Assessment

Dear Parents/Guardians

I hope you and your families continue to manage and deal as best as is possible with our current situation. 

Thank you for completing the survey that we sent out last week. The Minister has now released his statement, (quoted below). As I mentioned in my previous communication, I believe that it is educationally and morally right to afford the students the opportunity to demonstrate a portion of their junior cycle learning through the medium of an online assessment. This online assessment should be closely aligned to the traditional style of assessment which the students were originally preparing for. 

The Minister has made it clear that school organised assessment should acknowledge the fragmented nature of schooling that this year’s student cohort has experienced. With this in mind we want to provide a combined result which draws from work completed before the school closure and our end of year online assessment.

We have structured the final assessment accordingly. Each subject department has a one-hour time slot to conduct their exam. The timetable for these is attached at the end of this letter. We hope that this provides an appropriate structure and sense of purpose for our students for the month of May.

Departments will communicate to students what the weighting of marks awarded will be between the online assessment and other work submitted before the school closure. It is expected that the overall results of this assessment process will be reported to you before the end of June.

We realise that timings will create challenges for families, but we respectfully ask that you work with us to the best of your ability. In order to contribute to the integrity of the assessment process we would also ask that the student completes the assessment in an area that they are supervised or observed.

I think it is important that we acknowledge that our students have spent three years focussing on this moment. We need to do what we can to provide them with a representative statement of achievement which has been constructed with as much authenticity and integrity as possible.

I hope you agree that this particular structure affords us this opportunity

Warm regards

Colm Dooley

***Update Ministerial Announcement 29/4/2020****

– All third year Junior Cycle students to be awarded certificates for the completion of Junior Cycle by the Department of Education and Skills

– Schools given autonomy to assess students and all students to receive a report on achievement

– Adult learners to be given opportunity to take final Junior Cycle examinations in autumn

The Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh TD has today (Wednesday 29 April 2020) announced revised arrangements for this year’s Junior Cycle.

The decision was taken following recommendations from an advisory group of stakeholders as part of planning for the State Examinations in response to the Covid-19 public health measures and the decision that the Junior Cycle State Examinations will not run this year.

Minister McHugh attended the meeting of the advisory group and thanked the members for their work.

Minister McHugh said:“In this difficult time for students I have listened to the very strongly-held and well-articulated views of students, parents and other stakeholders,”“This decision has been made with the health and wellbeing of students, parents and teachers at the forefront of our thinking.“It gives students and their families more clarity and certainty. It also gives schools freedom to decide how best to assess the progress of students following three years of hard work and learning.”

Under the revised arrangements and in light of the exceptional circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the work and achievement of third year Junior Cycle students will be recognised with a state certificate from the Department of Education and Skills.

As soon as possible after the end of the current school year, students will receive a written school report on their learning achievements in each subject, short course and/or priority learning unit

Schools are also being given autonomy to decide whether to run school-based assessments and what form they take. Options to consider include school-designed examinations, tasks, projects, assignments, essay style questions, presentations, or other tasks agreed at a local level. Guidance for schools on reporting to students and parents, developed with the advice of the advisory group of stakeholders, will be published by the Department.

Communication to Parents/Guardians of Junior Cycle students

Good afternoon to you all. I hope parent/student alike are managing in a unique situation, certainly nothing any of us could have imagined at the outset of this academic year. I am sure that managing the ongoing lockdown, while trying to maintain motivation and engagement with studies, is a challenging reality for anyone to deal with. It is my opinion that uncertainty in relation to Junior Cycle assessment is currently adding to that strain and stress that you are under. The uncertainty is, at best, unhelpful.

At Our Lady’s Grove we were never comfortable with the solution that we should host assessment for Junior Cycle in late September. It is not fair on the students to expect them to maintain their learning throughout the summer unsupported. There would be no let up for student or parents in that scenario. We also feel that that scenario would unduly interrupt and obstruct Transition Year and the commencement of Senior Cycle.

The latest statement from the Minister of Education states that he: “would urge schools not to make any local decisions concerning assessment at junior cycle level until the National Advisory Group has concluded its discussions on that part of its work.”

At Our Lady’s Grove, we believe it is the right option for there to be online assessments at the end of May, should the assessment choice be in our control. The Parent/student survey, conducted at the end of last week, agreed with our thinking. Over 90% of respondents clearly stated a preference for May assessment over the September option. 

We intend to plan the structure for May assessments over the coming days so that we are prepared for the Minister’s announcement when it comes. This planning will seek to ensure that timetables will be with the students immediately following any official announcement. It will also mean that the integrity of the setting of the exam papers is protected so that we can afford our students a well-deserved indication of their learning progress and achievement after three hard years of work.

We appreciate your ongoing support in this matter. Should you wish to respond or query this communication please feel free to contact Sonya or I on:

s.lyons@olgrove.ie

c.dooley@olgrove.ie

Yours sincerely

Colm Dooley