May 8, 2020
Leaving Cert decision welcome, but a more just and fair Plan B needed – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has welcomed the decision of the Minister for Education to cancel this year’s Leaving Cert exams, saying that the uncertainty and anxiety that students have faced has been unbearable.

He has said, however, that the government’s Plan B is not at this point adequate to ensure fairness and that the needs of students are catered for.

He said:

“I am glad that the Minister for Education has announced that this year’s Leaving Cert exams will not proceed. The anxiety, and mental stress, that students have faced has been unbearable, and I welcome that much of the uncertainty and anxiety they have faced is now over.

“I have made it clear for some time that public health and safety is key, and that this must take precedence over sitting exams. I want to commend students who have raised their voices on this.

“However, I am concerned about numerous aspects of the government’s Plan B and that predicted grades are going to be relied upon with no other metric considered. This leaves no chance for late performing students to improve their position this year.

“I am particularly concerned at the idea of school profiling. I am worried that children in schools that suffer from disadvantage will suffer from this measure, and they will not get the grades they deserve.

“The predicted grades are also not officially a Leaving Cert, and we need more clarity on what this will mean for students who don’t go on to third-level. The Minister has acknowledged that there are ‘legal vulnerabilities’ about this approach.

“We believe there is a better way.

“In our view, a central part of the answer to the problem of allocating third-level places lies in the fact that universities and colleges will have reduced numbers of international students this year. 

“We believe it is possible, via investment in third-level, and crucially scaling up SUSI, to allow more students to access their first choice course. Assessments conducted online could also be used for oversubscribed courses.

“There is an opportunity here to give more opportunities to people from disadvantaged backgrounds experience of third-level. The Minister needs to be careful not to allow this situation to actually reduce those opportunities.”

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