April 29, 2020
Early school leavers cannot be forgotten about in Junior Cert plans – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that Minister McHugh’s reversal of his previous position on the Junior Cert reflected an unworkable initial plan, but that more clarity was still needed.

Speaking today the Cork South Central TD said that it was essential that the almost 4,000 students a year who leave school after the leaving cert, are not forgotten about.

“It was clear for some time that it was not plausible or viable to try to run the Leaving Cert and the Junior Cert over the Summer. However, the Ministers initial plan led to significant confusion.

“It also clearly did not command credibility among schools, given that within a matter of days several schools announced that they would not be participating in the proposed exams in the next school year.

“The Minister was forced in to this because the original plan was fraying at the edges immediately.

“It is welcome that some of the burden of stress and anxiety has been lifted from students. I hope the Minister will do more to ease the stress and anxiety on Leaving Cert Students.

“However, while we do know more, we also need more information on this.

“The press statement from the Department of Education emphasises autonomy in developing assessments, and autonomy is of course necessary. However, far too often in Irish education policy, ‘autonomy’ can be a synonymous with a lack of guidance. So schools and teachers need guidance, and the need it soon. It is now the 29th of April.

“Crucially, it is important that there is a focus on the 3,700 early school leavers. For those students, this isn’t just the culmination of the previous year or three years, but is the highest qualification they will have as they leave school.

“That is an important point. So we need to be sure that for those students, this years Junior Cert allows the same access back to education, training or apprenticeships either now or at a later date. This is not just a small detail, but a crucial point, and the detail of that needs to be nailed down.

“The Minister and his Department need to engage with QQI to ensure this certificate can be recognised as fitting within that framework.

“In that vein, the proposed optional exams for the autumn should be available to all students, who are anxious to sit it, not just adult learners.

“So to be fair to teachers, students and their families, there are further points which need to be clarified.”

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