Athlone’s Exams Commission jobs safe for now, says Dept of Education

The Department of Education says the new Junior Cert shouldn’t lead to the loss of permanent, part-time, or temporary jobs at the State Exams Commission in Athlone in the short to medium term.

It comes after Fianna Fáil councillor Aengus O’Rourke raised the issue earlier this month at Athlone Town Council meeting, where he said workers had expressed concern to him about their future with the SEC.

He cautiously welcomed the jobs commitment, which appears to guarantee the status quo until at least 2017, saying that “if that’s the case, it would be great”.

“None of us are against reform and the system needs reform,” he said, but he was concerned at the lack of information available.

Following a query from the Athlone Advertiser, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said:

“It is not intended that into the short to medium term that there will be any loss of jobs in the SEC.

In fact the role of the SEC will be central to all the reforms envisaged at both junior cycle and senior cycle.”

The spokesperson said the reform of the junior cycle and the provision of the new JCSA at the end of three years “will not have a significant impact on the role of the SEC”.

She said the SEC will continue to provide final examinations in English, Irish, and Maths for the foreseeable future and will provide examinations in the existing junior cycle subjects until the new specifications are implemented.

The new subject specifications are being phased in over several years from September of this year, and the first English exam is set to take place in 2017.

“In addition the SEC will provide examination papers and marking schemes for the new specifications as they are introduced from summer 2018.

“Where any resources become available they will be required to assist with the introduction of new specifications at Leaving Certificate which will have new examination components, such as practical examinations in the sciences, etc.

“This will require significant involvement of the SEC,” the spokesperson said.

While on the one hand, it will take time to implement the changes, Cllr O’Rourke expressed concern at the rush to change the system.

“It’s too much too soon,” he said, adding that principals and teachers unions have expressed great fear about the transformation.

Last month Education Minister Ruairí Quinn announced that the new junior certificate will be called the Junior Cycle Student Award (JCSA ).

It aims to take the emphasis away from learning “off by heart” and increase student activity, project work, and the use of technology.

Currently Athlone’s SEC hires hundreds of examiners to mark the scores of thousands of exam papers completed by students sitting in the June exams.

This will be replaced by teachers assessing their own students’ work.

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