Joe McHugh to face Dáil questions over Leaving Cert cancellation

The Education Minister will face tough questions in the Dáil tomorrow in his first appearance since the cancellation of the Leaving Certificate exams.
Joe McHugh to face Dáil questions over Leaving Cert cancellation

Education Minister Joe McHugh
Education Minister Joe McHugh

By Jess Casey and Paul Hosford

The Education Minister will face tough questions in the Dáil tomorrow in his first appearance since the cancellation of the Leaving Certificate exams.

Joe McHugh will be grilled by opposition TDs on his decision to cancel this summer’s exams and replace them with a system of what the Department of Education is calling ‘calculated grades’.

Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne said he is seeking clarity on whether the government's plan in lieu of the written exams would have any unforeseen consequences.

"It's been clear for weeks that this couldn't go ahead,” Mr Byrne said. “They never had any idea how they were going to do it. Added to that, you have the mental health pressure that it put on students.

"But there was a feeling that they felt that it was the same as cancelling Christmas. Now it's a question of making this system as fair as possible and ensuring there are as many third-level places as possible."

Mr McHugh is also due to take questions from Labour education spokesman Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who is expected to call for the health and legal advice around cancelling the exams to be published.

"The health advice is going to be key for us to understand whether schools can open in September."

Mr Ó Ríordáin will also question Mr McHugh on the potential implications for the class of 2021, and about what preparations have been put in place for students' July Provision. There are also serious questions around 'school profiling', he added, which is expected to play a large part in determining 'calculated grades.'

School profiling refers to the Department of Education's process of creating a profile of achievement for each school by taking its performance in the Leaving Cert over the past three years and comparing it to the national standards. The department says this method will allow it to check if the estimated marks given to students by their schools are reasonable. "I can't see how it will benefit anyone other than average students in middle class schools," Mr Ó Ríordáin said.

Sinn Féin education spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire also plans to question Mr McHugh about 'school profiling'.

I have particular concerns for students who are in schools that suffer from disadvantage. I would be worried that they will not do well out of this system.

"I'll be looking for safeguards in the process overall. I feel the school profile should be dropped as it is unnecessary and unfair on talented students who might be held back due to the past results of a school."

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