Government in no rush to make decision on Leaving Cert despite pressure from Labour

Government in no rush to make decision on Leaving Cert despite pressure from Labour

Last night the Government confirmed that Leaving Cert students will not return to in-person learning next week, and will continue to learn remotely until at least February 1.

The Finance Minister says that the Government is "well aware" of the concern of Leaving Cert students but says that there will be no rush to make a decision on whether State exams would go ahead.

The Labour Party has called on the Government to make a decision on the exams next month.

The Government last night made a u-turn on sending Leaving Cert students back to school for three days a week just 24 hours after the plan was announced.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Paschal Donohoe said that the Government must now listen to the concerns of students and teachers and ensure that the remote learning systems worked to the highest standards.

Mr Donohoe said that any plan to send children back to school could only have worked with the buy-in of teachers' unions, but stopped short of saying that Education Minister Norma Foley should have sought that buy-in before announcing the plan.

He later told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that unions were consulted on the plan.

Labour’s education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has called on the Government to make a decision in February.

“The call has to be made in February,” he said. “Are we doing all of this (school closures) in favour of a written exam in the summer?” Leaving Cert students missed 11 weeks of school last year and there is no guarantee that they are going to be back in school by mid-term or by St Patrick’s Day, he told Newstalk Breakfast.

Mr Ó Ríordáin said parents had been prepared “to vote with their feet” and their children would not have returned to school next week.

Mr Donohoe said that he did not believe that making a decision at that speed was "appropriate".

"The Labour Party, like every other opposition party earlier on in the week, were calling on the Government to prioritise Leaving Cert students and prioritise the needs of those who have very special and very particular needs in the coming weeks.

"They called us to prioritise those needs and within hours of making those calls, they were then calling on us to reverse our decision.

"So in that spirit, the idea that we can make a decision about a hugely important exam like the Leaving Cert, and indeed also the Junior Cert, very quickly, and at speed is something that I don't believe is appropriate."

On vaccination, Mr Donohoe said that the country had had a "very careful" start to vaccination. He said that regulatory approval of further vaccines.

Mr Donohoe said that for businesses forced to close this week, supports were available. He said that the Wage Subsidy Scheme had been extended and that supports would continue to be made available.

He said that the Government should acknowledge the uncertainty caused by Covid closures, but said that "we will get through this difficult period".

He said that the Government was "engaging" with banks to seek payment breaks for those who need them.

He added that the cost of any deal with private hospitals will be shared in the Oireachtas but he expected that it would be less than the €115 million per month during the initial wave of Covid-19.

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