The Teachers' Union of Ireland has called for further engagement and clarifications on the Government's hybrid exams and calculated grades Leaving Certificate plan which was announced yesterday. 

While the scheme has been largely welcomed by students, school managers, and school principals, both the TUI and the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland unions have expressed what they say are serious concerns and disappointment at elements of the plan. 

They say they will consult members over the coming days.  

The Cabinet Sub-Committee signed off on the exam proposal yesterday afternoon.

Students will be able to choose to receive calculated grades in all subjects, to be issued to them at the same time as the examination results.

The State Examinations Commission will publish a detailed timetable today for exams that will begin on 9 June, subject to public health advice.

Teacher unions have welcomed gains they say they made in negotiations, but have expressed serious concern at elements of the plan.

The TUI has called for a reduction in the number of questions that students will be required to answer in exams, and for further talks and clarifications. 

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ASTI President Ann Piggott said its members are glad that students are "relieved and happy and have clarity" about the Leaving Certificate, but the union has ongoing reservations about the means proposed to calculate grades by teachers.

She said the ASTI will consult with its Executive, which represents 18,500 teachers, about its cooperation with the new system, and added that the union does not want any more stress on students.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said the ASTI has always had reservations about a calculated grades system and that remains, so it is glad that an alternative option of a traditional Leaving Cert is being offered.

She said the ASTI favoured orals and project work being assessed externally to "ground results and give credibility or raise it up in a way".

Ms Piggott said there is a question about students not being motivated for the coming months if they are taking calculated grades, which she said, will make teaching in the coming months very challenging.

The Executive Dean of the DCU Institute of Education has said the exam plan is a "win-win" for Leaving Certificate students and advised them to keep their options open.

Anne Looney said that while the plans are very late in being announced, to see something over the line has left people feeling more confident. 

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said if schools return as planned in the next couple of weeks there will be time for them to get the work they need for calculated grades.

"Most second level students have been engaging with some sort of remote learning and part of that has been submitting work ... and this time the calculated grades process will be done in schools at the end of May and beginning of June. So there is plenty of time to get the evidence that schools will need for the calculated grades," she said.

Ms Looney also said she thinks there will be some modifications to the final exam to take into account that students have had a disruptive year. 

TUI President Martin Marjoram said the Government's plan will create "as many difficulties as it will solutions". 

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Philip-Boucher Hayes, Mr Marjoram said he believes there will be "huge stresses on students" who opt for calculated grades as they "try to convince their teachers" of the marks that they feel they deserve.

He said "there is a danger" that teachers will come under pressure from students and parents to grant them higher grades than the teacher feels they deserve.

He said TUI members will be consulted on the plan from today, but he would not be drawn on whether members will co-operate.

Mr Marjoram said the TUI recognises that students have broadly welcomed the announcement, but his members are "disappointed" and "concerned" over the "lack of a contingency plan" should high level Covid-19 restrictions need to come into force in June.

Mr Marjoram also said he believes students should be encouraged to sit the written exam, but is concerned about "whether exams have been sufficiently adjusted" to take account of the loss of face-to-face learning time for students.

Meanwhile, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said he believes most students will sit the traditional exams. 

He said the first priority is to reopen schools and that the Government and health officials will assess and test how that goes for a couple of weeks before the second phase of school reopening and construction begins.

Sinn Féin's Education spokesperson said it was not unreasonable for teachers to ask for practical and course work to be compatible with a calculated grade, but said it should not undermine the choice given to students.

Speaking on the same programme, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said his party favoured a calculated grade being provided in advance of deciding whether students will sit the exam. 

He said he has asked to meet Minister for Education Norma Foley to discuss this.