Mallow students in walk-out protest over Leaving Cert uncertainty

The Education Minister Norma Foley recognised the disruption students have faced and committed to further meetings with stakeholders
Mallow students in walk-out protest over Leaving Cert uncertainty

Sixth year pupils looking for leaving cert reform protest at the Patrician Academy Secondary School in Mallow, Co Cork. Pictures: Dan Linehan

Students and parents share a "common sentiment" that a 'hybrid' Leaving Cert be re-introduced this year, according to their two national representative groups.

The National Parents Council is supporting students in their call for the reintroduction of a hybrid model for this Leaving Cert. It comes as further talks took place on Thursday in relation to this year’s State exams. 

The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU) is calling for an alternative option to be implemented for students given the disruption to their studies caused by Covid-19.

In a joint statement issued today, the ISSU and the National Parents Council said that surveys carried out by both organisations shared a “common sentiment" from parents and students. 

“That a hybrid model should be adopted for this year’s state exams.

Students and their families have seen very significant disruption to school and classroom time which has hindered their exam preparation continues to cause a high level of stress and has exaggerated the disadvantages and inequity already evident.

All sixth-year students at the Patrician Academy in Mallow walked out of their last class today to highlight their calls for a hybrid model to be implemented again this year.

The majority of students would like to see a similar Leaving Cert model to last year, where students were offered the choice between sitting their written exams, receiving an accredited grade, or both, according to student Donal Cronin.

“What we are trying to ensure is that no voices go unheard and we’re trying to make it as easy as possible for policymakers to hear us.” 

 Sixth year pupils looking for Leaving cert reform protest at the Patrician Academy Secondary School in Mallow, Co Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan
Sixth year pupils looking for Leaving cert reform protest at the Patrician Academy Secondary School in Mallow, Co Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

There are countless numbers of students across the country who suffer from anxiety attacks, stress, and pressure, he added.

“That issue arose very heavily from Covid, and it is compounded by having to sit the Leaving Cert where there is a high amount of uncertainty still 139 days out from the exam.” 

The decision to implement a hybrid approach should be made "from a holistic standpoint", Mr Cronin said. 

"As the Ombudsman for Children said this week, there is no one size fits all solution, students should be given choice." 

Hybrid model challenges

Today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said reintroducing the hybrid Leaving Cert model would present challenges.

Adjustments have already been made to this year’s Leaving Cert in recognition of the disruptions faced by students, he added. “We're not at Level Five or where we were last year,” he told RTÉ.

“My understanding is that a third of this cohort would not have Junior Certificate results, so the whole data issue would be problematic, to say the least. We need to have an open debate about it, and we need to be transparent in terms of what the issues potentially could be.”

Grade inflation would likely be seen again and third-level has been “squeezed” for the last two years to create thousands of additional college places, he added. 

The capacity to do that this year is more challenging, and therefore the grade inflation could, at the other end of this journey, have very severe stress and impacts on students also.

Education Minister Norma Foley, officials from the department and the State Examinations Commission and other stakeholders had a virtual meeting on Wednesday to discuss plans for the 2022 exams.

In a statement issued afterwards, a spokesperson for the department said, "The minister is very aware of the disruption experienced by students who are due to sit state examinations this year and committed to continued engagement with all education stakeholders in the short period ahead."

It was agreed that engagement will continue between the minister and stakeholders "on a bilateral basis" over the coming days. 

Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, his party's education spokesman, criticised the lack of answers for students.

"Leaving Cert Students were hoping for clarity tonight. That hasn’t happened," he said."Students deserve to know ASAP what their leaving Cert will look like."

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