April 23, 2021
Safeguards needed to protect students and teaching staff in Leaving Certificate 2021 Bill – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has today welcomed the publication of the Education (Leaving Certificate 2021) (Accredited Grades) Bill 2021, which legislates for this year’s Leaving Certificate process.
He has said, however, that there are still outstanding questions which must be resolved to ensure Leaving Cert can proceed smoothly.
Speaking today after a briefing from Department of Education officials on the Bill, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“I welcome today’s publishing of the Leaving Certificate Bill. I look forward to examining it in further detail in the Dáil over the coming weeks. 
“I welcome the explicit prohibition of any form of canvassing of teachers involved in the calculated grading process.

“Teachers should be allowed to go about their lives without fear of being badgered in the supermarket or the local park.

“The relationship of respect and trust between teachers and students and their local communities is crucial and needs to be preserved. 
“It will be important however, given the significant repercussions of canvassing, namely that results could be withheld from a student, that the appropriate safeguards and appeals process are put in place. Sanctions need to be proportionate. 
“It would be unfair, for example, for a student to be penalised off the back of comments made by their parent to a teacher, which the student didn’t know anything about. That would be irrational, unjust and legally questionable. 
“I urge the Department to provide further detail to school staff and parents on this element, and to put in these appropriate safeguards for students.
“Another area of concern is the algorithm that will be applied to the calculated grading process this year.

“The legislation published today makes passing reference to this standardisation process, but is crucially lacking in any detail of what this algorithm will look like. 
“Passing reference to standardisation within the Bill does not absolve the Minister of her responsibility to publish this algorithm in advance, so that there is transparency, and it can be properly scrutinised.
“Sinn Féin raised this today at the Department’s briefing, and I am glad that the Department officials agreed and have said they will publish more details on the algorithm in advance of the issuing of results. Transparency is essential in this process, so this is something we will continue to pursue. 
“Discussions on the Leaving Cert have been an absolute rollercoaster for students over the past number of months.

“Students made their voices heard and, supported by Sinn Féin, advocated strongly and effectively to be afforded a choice in this year’s exams. 
“I am glad that today’s Bill enshrines this choice into law. My colleagues in Sinn Féin and I will continue to be constructive, and to work with the Minister to ensure that this year’s Leaving Cert is as fair to all students as possible.”

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