Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has reiterated the need for clarity for students and teachers on the future of the state exams, and called on the Minister to outline contingency plans.
Deputy Ó Laoghaire said;
“The situation at the minute is unsustainable, and it is deeply unfair on students, their families, and teachers to be operating under such stress and pressure.
“I spoke with the Minister for Education Joe McHugh today and I outlined to him my view that we need certainty.
“First of all, we need to know, if written exams are going to proceed in June then how those exams will take place.
“How can we ensure social distancing is enforced, how can we ensure that those students who are in vulnerable categories, or those with vulnerable relatives, will be safe and what provision will be made for them?
“How many students will be in an exam location, and how many invigilators will be required? How do we ensure confidence in safety in the system?
“Students, their families and teachers also need to know is what the contingency plans are.
“The advice of the public health authorities is key. In an evolving situation it is not difficult to imagine that a decision would be taken that it is not possible to hold written exams, or the remaining practical exams in the current time frame.
“If that decision has to be made, then we need clarity on what the contingency plan is as this must be in place as soon as possible.
“We need to know in that case if written exams will proceed at all and if they do, when they will proceed, and how third level, post leaving cert admissions will function. There needs to be engagement with third level and PLC bodies here.
“Most of all we need certainty, and in my view the least students deserve is that they get a date, on which they will know if they are sitting written exams in June, or have to finish practical exams.
“The Minister must give students that date. This uncertainty cannot drift in to late April or May.
“Likewise, there is a need for clarity for the Junior Cert. If it is the case that this will not proceed in June, which is entirely possible, a decision should be made on that as soon as possible as that will have implications for exam venue requirements.
“We also discussed the need for ongoing support for students at what is an incredibly stressful time, and the need to ensure NEPS or any other source is in a position to provide support and counselling.
“State examinations are important, and ensuring they are fair and consistent, that students can prepare is essential. However, the key priority must be public health and safety, and that has to come first.”