Survey: Majority agree on need for Leaving Cert change

Only 4% of all students believed the Leaving Certificate is fair and accurately assesses them. Picture: Mark Stedman

Students, parents, and teachers are in agreement on the need to radically reform the Leaving Certificate but quite divided on the ways of doing it, new research suggests.

In surveys conducted for the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), all three groups agreed with the need for change.

However, while 97% of the 251 parents support changes, this was the view of 78% of students and a much lower 65% of nearly 600 teachers, principals and deputy principals.

More than two-thirds of the 694 Union of Students in Ireland (USI) members surveyed did the Leaving Certificate in the last three years, but one-in-five did it before 2014.

Only 4% of all students believed the exam is fair and accurately assesses them, compared to 15% of parents and 28% of principals, deputies and teachers.

Just over three-quarters of students support a move towards more continuous assessment for the Leaving Certificate, perhaps influenced by their experience of such practices at college.

This method of assessing students is favoured by 45% of parents, with nearly one-third supporting the use of factors other than Leaving Certificate results alone to allocate places on third-level courses.

For school staff, however, continuous assessment is not quite as strongly backed, being favoured by just 23% as the reform they would choose around the Leaving Certificate.

Almost the same proportion believe reducing the number of subjects to be the best option, but the biggest support (38%) was for allowing interviews, admission exams or other factors to help decide college places.

The poor backing among education staff for continuous assessment could be a reflection of experiences of similar approaches being introduced in the junior cycle. Just 22% of surveyed teachers and school leaders said they would support teachers correcting their own students’ work as part of any continuous assessment for Leaving Certificate.

Although such a move did not have strong support from any group, it was somewhat stronger among parents. However, most of the 70% opposing it would have concerns about a teacher’s possible bias against a student coming into play.

The latest study was undertaken by Amárach Research for NAPD, which noted the variation in views on some topics but also what it described as a huge appetite for change among all stakeholders.

Our objective in this report is clear. We need to start thinking, talking, planning and ultimately implementing reform. This must be a priority,” said NAPD director Clive Byrne.

The study comes during the early stages of consultations by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment on possible changes to the two-year senior cycle leading to the Leaving Certificate.

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