February 26, 2021
Mock Exam guidance welcome, but more must be done to prevent unnecessary pressure and stress – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has welcomed guidance published last night by the Department of Education advising that mock exams are not required nor recommended, however he has called on the Minister to protect students and ensure that this guidance is being put in practice within the schools.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said

“Sinn Féin recognised issues could arise with mock exams, as different schools had different policies on whether they would go ahead with them this year or not.

“This is why we urged the Minister to put forward a uniform policy on how testing would work this year, and on the specific assessment that could form the basis of students’ calculated grades.

“I am glad that she has listened and that the Department of Education issued this guidance last night. Contained within this guidance was a statement that mock exams were not required nor recommended for use as evidence for calculated grades, and that only three tests per subject would be permitted between now and May, each lasting no longer than one hour.

“This was welcome clarity. However, I have been contacted by many students today who are extremely concerned that their school are continuing with assessments from their first day back to school next week, which are essentially to all intents and purposes the mock exams.

“By and large, in my view schools do not wish to have their students endure excessive stress and I very much hope schools will make sure they are not putting pressure on students by asking them to complete tests that are in fact mock exams in all but name, and that those who do plan on doing this reconsider.

“I am calling on the Minister to intervene here and make sure that Leaving Cert students aren’t being put under undue pressure and stress from their first day back at school. A grace period could potentially be put in for the next two weeks, to allow students to settle in before having to complete tests which may form part of their final Leaving Cert grade.

“Sixth year students have been out of the school setting for over two months now. They need time to acclimatise, and the Minister needs to intervene here to ensure that the guidance is clear and is being enforced in all schools.

“There needs to be a uniform approach to what is taken into account when grades are being calculated and, given the lack of uniformity in some schools having mock exams and some not, it would not be fair for these results to form the basis of the final calculated grade.”

“I am also urging the Minister to reconsider the grossly unfair proposals where children who are sick or self-isolating on the day of the written test will not get the chance to sit another paper

“Students who have gone to the significant trouble and challenge of studying for the written exam, including orals and practicals, should get the chance to sit another paper if they miss an exam due to being sick or self-isolating. Otherwise, it is punishing students for following the public health advice, and doing so at the very last minute when these students will have already invested much of the work necessary.

“Second sittings or a paper B are a standard feature of the Leaving Cert. Therefore, it is not onerous, they simply need to draft the paper. While the numbers involved may not be major, the potential injustice is, and I would urge the Minister to listen again to these concerns and to respond.”

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