'Compelling evidence' to cancel Leaving Cert, Minister insists as scrutiny intensifies

"It would not be the exam experience which students had prepared for and would have had an expectation of sitting before this crisis hit."
'Compelling evidence' to cancel Leaving Cert, Minister insists as scrutiny intensifies

Education Minister Joe McHugh has said that the Leaving Cert was cancelled due to "compelling evidence", but calls have been repeated for that advice to made public.

Speaking in the Dáil for the first time since Friday's cancellation of the state exams, Mr McHugh said that it had always been his preference that the exams take place either as planned in June or in July. However, he said that it was not possible to run the exams while adhering to physical distancing guidelines.

"It would not be the exam experience which students had prepared for and would have had an expectation of sitting before this crisis hit.

"The State Examinations Commission advised me that the examinations would not be comparable to the Leaving Certificate in any other year potentially involving the need for students to wear masks and gloves sitting exams, superintendents requiring PPE and the prospect of the exam papers having to be redesigned to such an extent that they would have been unrecognisable.

The Leaving Cert is important, but it’s life that matters.

"The system which is now being put in place, Plan C, will allow students to progress to the next stage of their life in a timely fashion."

Mr McHugh said that while schools will be available for teachers from Monday to ensure continuity of learning, that did not mean that teachers were returning to work.

He said that discussions on the reopening of schools was ongoing and consideration must be given to the use of facilities, school transport and protecting vulnerable students and staff.

He added that officials from his department were working with the Department of Children on how best to handle the transition to school settings for children due to start primary school this September.

However, Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin hit out at Mr McHugh, saying that "

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"Every single issue that the minister has had to handle from the redeployment of SNAs, to school meals, to the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert has been mishandled," he said.

Mr O Ríordáin said that Mr McHugh should make available the public health advice upon which the Leaving Cert was cancelled.

"Nobody envies the work that Minister McHugh has responsibility for in this situation. But in terms of the flip-flopping on the Leaving Cert, the change to the oral exams, there doesn't seem to be anyone in command.

You get the feeling that it is very much a caretaker situation.

"Any announcement the Minister makes, people are just waiting a few days for a new announcement and that creates uncertainty."

Fianna Fáil education spokesperson Thomas Byrne called on the minister to ensure that external expert advice be used to create a model for the predicted grades system which is being used to replace the Leaving Cert.

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