Europe

Coronavirus: Irish teachers given legal assurance over predicted grades

Photo of student writing
Image caption Irish school-leavers will be graded by their teachers rather than sitting exams this year

Fears that Irish teachers could face personal costs if school-leavers took legal action over predicted grades have been resolved, a union has said.

Teachers were asked to calculate grades after the cancellation of the Leaving Cert, Ireland's equivalent of A Levels.

The Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (Asti) previously advised its 17,000 members not to estimate grades until legal liability was addressed.

But Asti has now said it has government assurances of "full indemnity".

The union has also revised its advice and is now encouraging teachers to take part in the grading process.

It follows discussions between the union and the Department of Education on Friday, organised after Asti objected to government guidelines on how school-leavers' performance should be assessed.

The guidelines included a "State indemnity" for teachers, but Asti said this did not go far enough to protect its members from personal liability in the event that a student unhappy with their results took legal action.

However, following the talks on Friday, Asti said: "This strengthening of the indemnity will ensure that a teacher will not have to employ her/ his own legal team to defend herself/ himself and run the risk of incurring large irrecoverable costs and expenses."

Ban on gifts

The guidelines published on Thursday also warned students and their parents against trying to influence their grades, warning they "must not under any circumstances" contact their teachers to discuss their decision-making process.

The guidelines also rule out the giving or accepting of teachers' gifts, addressing concerns that attempts would be made to bribe teachers into giving students better grades than they deserve.

This measure had been specifically requested by schools and teaching unions who have concerns about inappropriate approaches from parents and students.

Several teachers have complained to Irish broadcaster RTÉ of unwelcome contacts since the government announced two weeks ago that grades would be based on teacher assessments rather than exams.

One principal said his school received 50 emails over the weekend that immediately followed the announcement.

"Between the Friday and the Monday, I had 17 missed calls from parents, trying to explain why their darling had not worked so hard and wondering what they could do now," the head teacher said.

The principal of another school told RTÉ he was travelling to a neighbouring town to do his shopping in order to avoid chance meetings with pupils and their parents.

The guidelines state: "Teachers and schools must not be subjected to any type of influence, inducement (including gifts), pressure or coercion by a parent/guardian, student or any other person in relation to a student's mark or ranking either before or after it has been assigned.

"This includes any financial, economic or other personal interest which might be perceived to compromise the teacher's impartiality and independence in the context of the decision-making process."

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