Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education Rose Conway-Walsh TD has called on the government to show ‘common sense’ and engage seriously with students and staff regarding concerns about mass indoor exams.
After raising the issue in the Dáíl with the Tánaiste, Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“We have seen chaos around third-level exams over the last week. Mass exam halls at normal capacity are being used to host end of semester exams. And students are being told the only alternative is to defer their exams.
“Many students and staff have health and safety concerns for themselves and vulnerable family members. Despite these legitimate concerns, the government remains unwilling to look at alternative arrangements.
“Other students are Covid positive or close contacts and have to restrict their movements restricted or self-isolate. These students are being told there are no options other than missing exams.
“This will only result in punishing students who follow public health guidance. It will, in all likelihood, lead to students ignoring that advice and attending these mass indoor exams. Common sense is urgently needed.
“When I raised this with the Tánaiste, his response was that antigen tests had been provided for students to ensure exams are safe. However, the funding for antigen tests, which is very welcome, was only announced on Tuesday after some students had already started exams.
“Furthermore, Minister Harris stated that it would be up to each college to determine how to use the antigen tests ‘over the coming months’ when announcing the funding.
“I will be seeking clarity from the Minister on whether antigen tests for students will be rolled out in time for exams. Given some students have already begun exams, it is hard to see how this will be the case.
“Even if this is possible, it doesn’t go far enough as students who have a positive test will still be unable to avail of an online assessment.
“Students, parents and staff want a clear explanation why most assessments/exams cannot be done online. Online provision would have been the best way to enable students to comply with public health guidance, and ensure they can have a family Christmas.”