May 13, 2021
Outstanding issues must be resolved to ensure the fairest Leaving Cert possible – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has urged the Minister for Education to resolve the outstanding issues surrounding this year’s Leaving Certificate, to ensure the fairest process possible for all students.
 
Speaking today at a debate of the Education (Leaving Certificate 2021) (Accredited Grades) Bill 2021, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
 
“The past 15 months have been extraordinarily difficult for the Leaving Certificate Class of 2021. The loss of learning, coupled with the stress surrounding the uncertainty of their Leaving Cert exams, was profound.
 
“The reason we are here today, debating this Bill, is because of the impressive and determined campaigning voice of the students. The students themselves identified an alternative approach, that of choice and, supported by Sinn Féin, they advocated passionately and with great dignity.
 
“I am glad that the Leaving Cert Bill has enshrined that choice into law. There are outstanding issues, however, that the Minister must now address.
 
“The first is the algorithm – it is crucial that it is published this year in advance of results day. Students deserve transparency. They need to see how the standardisation process will be applied to them, and they need confidence that this will be fair.
 
“If the algorithm was published sooner last year, it may be that the errors would have been picked up sooner and would have saved a lot of upset and distress.
 
“Whilst I welcome the provisions which explicitly prohibit any form of canvassing of teachers involved in the accredited grades process, I am concerned that the Bill is missing the necessary safeguards to protect students where they are not aware that canvassing has taken place.
 
“Under the current legislation, it is the student who pays the price and who will lose their accredited grades, even where they had no idea that any canvassing had taken place. This is wrong.
 
“Where a parent or other person canvasses a teacher without a student’s knowledge, it should be they who face a sanction and not the student, whether by way of a fine or other means. The Minister needs to address this.
 
“I would also be concerned that currently there is no Plan B for a situation where a student must self-isolate on the day of a written exam, or where there may be a localised lockdown. The Minister isn’t affording students a real choice, if that choice is taken away when a student must self-isolate through no fault of their own.
 
“The SEC need to put in place a second set of contingency papers in the event that this occurs.
 
“A final concern relates to students who have sat the Leaving Certificate in previous years, and are applying to the CAO this summer. Last year, many students in this position were pushed out of their CAO course preference because of grade inflation.
 
“I firmly believe that, if the work is put in now between Ministers Foley and Harris, that this issue can be resolved this year, and that the mistakes of last year do not have to be repeated.
 
“I welcome this Bill, which enshrines the voice of students to be afforded fairness and a choice into law. However, there is still more work to be done, to ensure that the proper safeguards are in place and the process is as fair as possible.
 
“I look forward to continuing to work constructively with the Minister to see this achieved.”

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