Leaving Cert students have finally been given clarity as they will be given the option of a modified version of calculated grades or sitting their written exams in June. It is also likely any oral and practical assessments will go ahead in the coming weeks.
The Cabinet sub-committee on Education met yesterday as Taoiseach Micheal Martin commented that Leaving Cert students had been under stress and it was time to give them clarity.
Secondary schools are expected to open on a phased basis from next week. Exam years are expected to return first. Sixth years will be at the top of the queue, followed by third years. Some sources say fifth years will be next, followed by remaining year groups, but these details are still being hammered out. On Tuesday, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said a return to school had to be a first priority, but that it had to be done cautiously on a phased basis. He said the impact of the return of classes would have to be continuously assessed, partly because of the new variant, first detected in the UK, which is more transmissible.
Dr Glynn reiterated that public health concerns rested on the mobility of the more than one million people that a full return to school entails. He said the country was going in the right direction to enable schools to reopen, but progress in reducing infection numbers over the coming weeks needs to be seen.
The ambition among the Government and unions is to fully reopen schools in advance of the Easter holidays which begin on March 26th, although this plan will be dependent on public health advice.
The Junior Cert has been cancelled in order to allow educators to focus on the Leaving Cert. There is a widespread view among education stakeholders that it would have been too much to run both sets of exams together in June – on health and safety grounds.
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) said an early decision would allow “appropriate alternative assessment arrangements to be designed, at school level – as was done last year – that will ensure Junior Cycle students remain productively engaged with learning until the end of the school year.
It has also created a pathway “to finalise discussions” on the Leaving Certificate Established/Leaving Certificate Applied and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programmes, the union stated. The TUI added cancelling the Junior Cert would also prevent excessive workload and pressure for teachers and school management, who are currently trying to ensure Leaving Cert students complete their orals, project work and coursework, while also engaging in emergency remote teaching.