The body responsible for marking the Junior and Leaving Certificate exams has issued a clarification which may remove a threat of lost marks in English that was hanging over thousands of Junior Cycle students.

In guidelines published today, the State Examinations Commission has stated that it is not now necessary for students to have been assessed by their own teachers before taking part in a new assessment component which is worth 10% of their overall marks.

Until this year, students sitting Junior Cycle English were marked on the basis of two exams that they sat in June.

But a new system made up of several elements is in place for this year's third year students.

There is a written exam worth 90% of marks, but there are also two classroom-based assessments, carried out by teachers, and a third written assessment, which is marked by the State Examinations Commission.

The latter component is worth 10% of marks.

ASTI teachers, however, have been refusing to assess their own students for State exam purposes.

Until now, this meant that around two thirds of students were unable to access that 10% of marks, as this written assessment task had to follow the teacher's assessment of students' work. 

The ASTI said its 22-member Standing Committee will consider the SEC clarification when it meets next Friday.