State Examinations Commission to discuss contingency planning for Leaving Cert 2021

'The Government is putting the idea of a traditional Leaving Cert ahead of students' physical and mental well-being,' says one Leaving Cert student.
State Examinations Commission to discuss contingency planning for Leaving Cert 2021

The State Examinations Commission will meet later this month to discuss contingency planning for the Leaving Cert, but Opposition politicians say that quicker decision-making is needed.

Plans to send Leaving Cert students back to school for three days a week fell apart just 24 hours after they were announced last week following objections from teachers' unions. 

The collapse of the proposal has called into question if it is possible to run State examinations this year at all, with Labour's Áodhan Ó Ríordáin saying a decision must be made by the end of the month.

Sinn Féin's education spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoighaire said a Plan B was needed quickly.

"In my view, I would prefer the written Leaving Cert, but we have to be realistic — the situation presents major challenges," he said.

"We need a timescale for a decision. We need to know what the contingency plan is — what Plan B and Plan C are. Last year's marking scheme was rushed, and we want to avoid that.

There is no excuse for not having a contingency in place already. The Government seems to think that Plan A is the only show in town, but that is not realistic or acceptable.

"Students need to be listened and taken seriously on this."

Leaving Cert student Hannah McConnell said that students needed clarity.

"The Government is putting the idea of a traditional Leaving Cert ahead of students' physical and mental well-being," she said. 

We are the only year who have had both years of our Senior Cycle disrupted.

With three months of online learning in Fifth Year and an unpredictable amount of time online for the foreseeable future, we have missed over a quarter of our Senior Cycle."

A spokesperson for the SEC, however, said that the Commission, along with education minister Norma Foley and her department, is committed to holding the exams as normal. 

Ms Foley had told Mr Ó Laoghaire in a parliamentary response last month that the SEC had "commenced its contingency planning for the 2021 examinations, recognising that a flexible and agile approach is necessary in light of the continuing fast-moving environment linked to Covid-19". 

The SEC spokesperson said that planning was under way.

"The advisory group met on November 25, and on December 14, 2020, with a further meeting planned for later this month," said the spokesperson. 

"The advisory group will consider all of the various issues arising in relation to the holding of the 2021 examinations, including public health considerations and appropriate contingency measures."

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