March 29, 2022
Reform of Leaving Cert long overdue but resources and more detail needed – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that it is welcome that the Government is finally moving on Leaving Cert reform.

The Cork South-Central TD said:

“We have all known for a long time that the Leaving Cert is in dire need of reform. It is not suited to the 21st century, and causes immense and disproportionate stress and anxiety.

“Sinn Féin have long been vocal advocates for reform of our state examinations.

“There has long been need for curricula-change that is more reflective of how different types of students learn, as well as a more holistic approach to be taken in how subjects are taught, in a way that is inclusive of as many types of learner as possible.

“Finally, the Minister has listened to the calls of students, parents, teaching unions and indeed Sinn Féin on this. I am glad to see the government has realised the need for reform. 

“I am particularly glad that the Minister has acknowledged the need for continuous assessment to take the pressure off from the final exam, as Sinn Féin have advocated.

“There are a number of issues that must be resolved to make sure that this reform is fair and equitable for all in the school community.

“The announcement is still quite vague in some respects, and we look forward to more detail on what the assessments outside of the traditional exam will entail.

“We need more detail from the Minister on what teacher-assessed-but-externally-moderated continuous assessment will look like; the Minister has made vague references to members of the SEC visiting schools, or the potential for a sample to be moderated by the SEC. 

“The school community need clarity here; it is important that the relationship between teacher and student – that is at the heart of the Irish school system – is preserved.

“I also believe that the Government could have been more ambitious about being able to accumulate marks in subjects other than Irish and English.

“Many schools do not have the resources to deliver this new programme. Schools under a certain size will struggle to offer the full timetable, and a lot of schools still don’t have a school hall to ensure PE can be delivered as an exam subject.

“Of course in many subjects, there are already significant pressures on teaching supply, and this will be even more so for schools to find teachers for the two new subjects announced today.

“It is clear that the new ‘Network Schools’ will be doing a lot of the heavy lifting here. One might question why a school would put themselves forward to trial this new approach to state examinations, without assurances from the Minister that this won’t impact their students’ performance and access to the CAO. The Minister must provide reassurances that the first cohort of students who will trial this new Senior Cycle are treated fairly.

“The other key point of reforming the Leaving Cert is about reducing stress, and to do that we need to ensure that there are adequate third level places in particular areas, and ensure apprenticeships are given greater prominence.

“It is incredibly important that our Senior Cycle rewards not only knowledge acquisition, but creativity, flexible thinking and adaptability. 

“I hope today’s announcement is the first step towards inclusive and equitable Senior Cycle reform, but I hope that we get more detail soon, and that the Minister has secured the resources that will be required for this reform to work.”

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