March 2, 2021
Minister Foley unable to give assurances that students will retain choice of sitting Leaving Cert – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has expressed concern after the Minister for Education could not give assurances to the Oireachtas Education Committee today that Leaving Cert students who want to sit written exams will get a second chance to do so in the event of them self-isolating or if there is a further lockdown.

Speaking Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“We welcomed that Leaving Cert students were to be afforded a choice between calculated grades and a written exam. This is what Sinn Féin called for, and indeed so did many students across the country.

“I am concerned, however, that answers from parliamentary questions I submitted to the Minister last week seem to suggest that if a student is self-isolating or unwell with Covid-19 during the initial sitting of the exams in June, they will not be facilitated with a second chance and their choice will be taken away from them.

“Similarly, the response from the Minister appears to suggest that if there was a localised lockdown in any one county next June, that the students in that county would be denied the opportunity to sit a written exam. This would be completely wrong.

“When I raised this with Minister Foley at the Oireachtas Education Committee this afternoon, the Minister couldn’t give me assurances that students would not lose their choice.

“I do not understand why this is the case, given that every other year there is a second set of papers available for students who are unwell or suffering a bereavement during the initial sitting.

“Affording a choice to students is worthless if that choice is taken away from them through a student having to self-isolate or indeed if there was to be a localised lockdown.

“While absolute guarantees are not possible, the fact that the government is not even considering a second chance to sit a paper, which is entirely deliverable and in keeping with public health advice, and indeed is the norm, is unacceptable, and in my view profoundly unfair to the minority of students who will be affected.

“It is unfair if a student has worked extremely hard, done their orals, is aiming for high points and then because they have to self-isolate cannot take this exam, despite going to all the considerable effort. They deserve the second chance.

“I have urged the Minister to address this, to put in place a second set of contingency papers, and to make sure that all students are afforded a real choice in their Leaving Certificate this year.”

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