Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn is considering proposals which would see a much greater role for continuous assessment as opposed to examinations for Junior Certificate students.

Mr Quinn says plans for reform of the junior cycle are advanced.

If they go ahead, half of all Junior Certificate work will be assessed on the basis of student portfolios instead of exams.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has been developing proposals for reform of the Junior Certificate cycle.

Its report is due to be published in the autumn, but preliminary ideas have already gone to the minister.

Today Mr Quinn said if they go ahead then 50% of student work would be evaluated not through exams but with continuous assessment.

The Chief Executive of the NCCA said changes to how students were assessed was key to reform at junior cycle.

Without this, she said, there could be no change in the classroom.

However, the support of teachers is key to any move away from an exam based system, as they will be doing the assessing.

Teachers' union the ASTI said it was essential that the system remained independent and objective.

It said teachers were advocates for their student, not judges.

Students want shorter junior cycle

School students want a shorter Junior Certificate cycle and a stronger focus on non academic courses covering issues such as sexuality, personal health, politics and drug education, according to the results of a consultation process on Junior Cert reform.

The 88 respondents who took part in the survey belong to state-funded group Comhairle na nÓg, which aims to give young people a forum in which to express themselves.

According to the survey, they want the Junior Cycle to be reduced from three to two years, with the extra year added to the Senior Cycle.

They want more and improved classes in Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and in Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE).

They said the Junior Cycle was too exam-focussed and called for more practical assessment of subjects such as portfolios, projects and group work.

The consultation is part of a framework for a new Junior cycle being developed by The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.