Student voices need to be heard in Leaving Cert overhaul

Student voices need to be heard in Leaving Cert overhaul

Paul Crone, director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, said: "We have learned that entry to third level must be decoupled from terminal exam results."

Students should be given more say in how their Leaving Cert is assessed after the pandemic, given how stress and anxiety “significantly reduced” when they had options this year.

That’s according to the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), which addressed the Oireachtas education committee on Tuesday.

The committee was meeting with school management bodies as it began a series of roundtable discussions on Leaving Certificate reform. Research from 2018 found that 83% of students claimed that the Leaving Cert in its traditional form was not the best way to assess their educational achievement, according to Paul Crone, NAPD director.

“This research was undertaken pre-pandemic and since then we have significantly more evidence and experience to inform our decision-making in relation to student assessment.

"We have learned that it is possible for teachers to assess their students. We have learned that entry to third level must be decoupled from terminal exam results. We have learned that students’ anxiety and stress were significantly reduced when they had options. 

Students’ voices were heard and they want flexibility.

He said students should be part of the reform process rather than an afterthought.

“Give students a stronger say in their learning and assessment. We must recognise and embrace the professionalism of the teachers who have proven that they can impartially and fairly assess their students.”

Ireland is very fortunate to have a very professional teacher body, said John Irwin, of the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS), told the committee. 

The pandemic helped us realise we can survive without the Leaving Cert, he added. 

“Who would have thought, two years ago that we would be able to put together a particular process to allow people to be able to progress into other pathways in their life.

"Students were central in all of the stakeholder engagements around the processes that were brought in. They will have a very important role over the next number of months and years, in discussing and seeing, we're seeing where senior cycle goes.”

John Curtis, the general secretary of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB) said there is a balance to be struck in retaining what is good in the current system. Students have previously suggested that continuous assessment promotes independent learning and better prepares them for further education, he added. 

"Our experience around assessment at Leaving Certificate over the past two years has given us much to reflect on in this regard and opens up possibilities some may never have thought possible." 

Exams have a role to play in Leaving Cert reform but should not dominate, according to Paddy Flood of Education and Training Boards Ireland. 

“We believe that the time is right now to develop a rich, multi-faceted assessment process for senior cycle that is not dependent on performance over a short window in time.”

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