May 7, 2020
Time to lift the burden of worry and anxiety from Leaving Cert students – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has called on the Minister for Education to make a definitive statement this week regarding the Leaving Cert and to outline his plan B. 

He has said that ‘on balance, it is my view that the Leaving Cert cannot now go ahead so the Minister needs to set out how the Leaving Cert will be awarded and how college admissions will be managed; including for students with special needs.’

He said:

“We have long been of the view that cancelling the Leaving Cert is a very serious thing to do, but that it cannot go ahead if the health and welfare of students and teachers cannot be safeguarded.

“The delay in coming to a decision in this regard, or setting out what other options are being considered, has caused serious anxiety and worry for students and parents, and has made a bad situation worse.

“On balance, it is my view that the Leaving Cert cannot now go ahead and that the Minister for Education needs to make a definitive statement this week in this regard.

“Any announcement must be accompanied by clarity on the next steps and set out how the Leaving Cert will be awarded and how college admissions will be managed; including for students with special needs and those from the north. Failure to do so will compound the failings of recent weeks and create more uncertainty and anxiety.

“There are many options that can be considered and none of them are without their flaws.

“I believe that the use of a multi-metric test should be considered. This would involve a combination of aptitude and assessment tests, online subject based oral examinations, personal statements on a subject or assignments based on course work.

“I have serious concerns regarding predictive grades and if they are to be used at all, their role should be minimised and significant safeguards put in place.

“We also need look at the possibility of giving students the chance to revisit their exam results in future and students should have the option of sitting their exams when it is safe to do so. Students in this year’s Leaving Cert year should be able to avail of tuition free of charge at any point in their lives if they wish to sit the Leaving Cert to improve their grades – this is a fair recognition of the circumstances these students have faced.

“There are a number of other issues that also need to be addressed. Leaving Cert fees need to be waived, dedicated mental health supports rolled out and SUSI expanded to get more students into third-level who might not otherwise.

“There are many routes that could be considered in relation to third-level admissions. In my view, a central part of the answer to the problem of allocating places lies in the fact that universities and colleges will have reduced numbers of international students this year.

“It is possible, via increased investment in third-level, and crucially in SUSI, to allow more students to access their first choice course. We believe that some form of assessment, perhaps the CAT4 or a discipline related skills based test done online, can be used for oversubscribed courses, but that popular courses should be expanded to accommodate as many students as possible.

“Whatever approach the Minister chooses, he must hear the voices of students and offer real clarity on the way forward. Students need certainty now, not more doubt and uncertainty.”

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