- Fees must be deferred
- Specific Counselling resources needed
Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that the decision to delay the leaving cert is not a great surprise, but that preparation must begin now to ensure a written leaving cert can safely be delivered on a new date.
Deputy Ó Laoghaire said;
“When you consider that the first exam was due to begin in less than eight weeks, we have felt that it was increasingly clear over recent weeks, that to deliver a written leaving cert in June, seemed very unlikely. As important as the State exams clearly are the interests of public health have to be the first priority.
“What I, advocates for students, their families, and teachers have been seeking is clarity, and while we know a bit more, we do not have the full clarity that students would like. We now do not have an actual date for a leaving cert, which is unprecedented.
“For students, the ongoing stress and anxiety continues, and it has been unbearable at a time when anxiety is already high. It has been deeply unfair on them.
“I urge students and teachers to try take a break now, that the finish line has been moved. I also absolutely urge the Department of Education to provide resources and a helpline for students who need counselling and support.
“What needs to happen now is major preparation, and it needs the whole Education Sector to be involved.
“Even to try and deliver a written leaving cert safely in July or August, it cannot be the normal leaving cert, because it seems unlikely we will be fully back to normal as a society by then. Schools need to be deep cleaned, from now.
“We will now need a much greater number venues, of invigilators, specific provisions for scribes, and so on.
“Any and all of these contingency plans should be published, and students should have the opportunity to know and prepare for what they will be dealing with this summer.
“There must be provision for students in vulnerable categories to take these exams alone if necessary.
“There are many other questions still outstanding. We need to know how prepared is the SEC for delayed marking, and how this will affect third level admissions, as well as internationally. We need to know whether the papers will be different format, and if so, what they will look like, how practical subjects such as Construction Studies will proceed.
“Crucially, we need to know how the Minister will redress the fact that regrettably the last few weeks have deepened the education divide, between those who suffer education disadvantage and those in a better position, and I include the digital divide in that.
“There needs to be a plan to tackle that over the coming weeks, and tuition has to be a key part of that.
“The fees for the exams cost €116 per child, at a time when families who do not qualify for the waiver are out of work, and really struggling. It should be deferred, and some form of expanded waiver considered for a later date.
“Fees for the Junior Cert should be cancelled, and fees for the Leaving Cert should be deferred.”