January 23, 2021
Leaving Cert students deserve a choice – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has called for alternatives to be put in place for this year’s Leaving Cert students.

He has said that there are other assessment options that can – and should – be offered to students to complete their studies, but that Leaving Cert exams could still go ahead for those who want to sit them.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“The government urgently needs to give clarity to students, teachers and parents in relation to the Leaving Cert.  

“This year’s cohort of Leaving Cert students are facing huge stress and anxiety about how they will be assessed this year and what this will mean for their futures. They have lost an enormous amount of in-school class time and not knowing what is happening is putting huge pressure on them and impacting on their mental health.

“The reality is that there are serious question marks about whether written Leaving Cert exams will in happen in June and the lack of contingency planning in this regard is outrageous.

“The Minster for Education needs to set out a plan now to ensure that we don’t see a repeat of last year’s fiasco.

“If calculated grades are going to be used, then there are fairer ways of checking the accuracy of these grades than algorithms or standardisation or school profiling. We should not be using these methods.

“Use of continuous assessment can be a part of such a system, ensuring grades are fairly calculated. This is the direction that the Leaving Cert should be moving in anyway; regardless of Covid-19.

“Many students will, however, want to sit Leaving Cert exams – if they can be facilitated – and I believe that the Department of Education should seek to ensure that as many students as possible have that choice.

“I also believe the Department must go much further in modifying exam papers to offer a greater choice of questions and topics.

“However, it is very clear that many students want an alternative method of assessment and if the Department makes an early decision now to facilitate this and if they engage in the necessary consultation with all stakeholders – particularly students themselves – then this can be done.

“But to do that, we need a decision quickly. Students need and deserve certainty and clarity – but also a choice.

“I am urging the Minister Norma Foley to now take the necessary steps to facilitate this and to engage with all stakeholders in a timely and responsible way. We cannot sleepwalk our way into another crisis in education.

“Alongside the process of offering choice with regards the Leaving Cert, we need to maximise access to third-level and the work to increase the number of college places and apprenticeships available in the Autumn needs to commence with urgency. That, again, cannot be left to the last minute.”

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