THE cancellation of this summer’s Leaving Cert examinations has been met with mixed reaction from both students and teachers alike but concern remains for students who are left at an “unfair disadvantage”.
Richard Terry, a teacher of maths, applied maths and history at St Colman's College in Fermoy said that the calculated grades system announced yesterday by Minister for Education Joe McHugh is cause for concern for those students “whose backgrounds those campaigning for this wouldn’t be entirely aware of”.
Mr Terry who has taught a total of 50 Leaving Cert students this year said he is concerned for students who have not worked consistently throughout the year due to their circumstances.
“There’s students coming from backgrounds where it’s not practical for them to put in consistent work throughout the year. There are students who have to work throughout most of the Leaving Cert in order to pay and save for going to college and they’re relying upon the idea that they can drop work after the pre exams and then focus on their final exams. Those students are unfairly impacted.” He said that his biggest concern is that students are being told that the “most important decision in their life” is out of their control.
“To be told that so suddenly is an extremely distressing thing for a lot of students.” He said that he does not condemn the decision and recognises that medical advice had to be followed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students but that it is “not cause for celebration”.
A 17-year-old student at Coláiste Éamann Rís, Alex Linehan, said that although he is “ecstatic” with the news and is confident that he has done enough to achieve the points needed to study Commerce in UCC, he is concerned for students attending DEIS schools.
“I just hope the government doesn’t forget about DEIS schools. DEIS schools are disadvantaged and you’d have a few students in every DEIS school who are really good, maybe they’re a H2 student but with these standardisations and the average of the school, it might make their grade lower.
“Private schools have a lot more resources than DEIS schools so they’re going to get slightly better grades, maybe not a lot better but in general they will get more H1 and H2 grades, so I think the government does have to look at it because a really good student in a DEIS school could be punished under the system,” he said.
Alex said that students who are “mentally drained from being left in limbo” finally have an answer.
“For most Leaving Cert students, even if they’re maybe not happy with the system at least there’s some certainty which is vital to have at a time like this,” he said.
Fellow classmate at Coláiste Éamann Rís, Haiden Kenefick, said that he hopes measures will be put in place to prevent any possible bias in the marking of papers.
“I think the government has taken it all into account so you'd hope that they’d have something to prevent bias and that paper would be cross checked.” He said that he has some concern over the new marking scheme but thinks he has put in enough work to study Arts in UCC and become a teacher.
Haiden said he wouldn’t feel the need to sit the Leaving Cert in 2021 if he met the points required for his chosen course.
He said that giving students the option is “a great idea” but that disturbed study habits could also affect those intending to sit the exams.
“It’s especially difficult for those living in rural communities with poor internet coverage,” he said.
Principal of the school Aaron Wolfe said that the calculated grades system was “a welcomed” decision from the government.
“It’s very complex. Grades are checked, double checked and they ensure there’s a bell curve and the student is put against the school profile so it’s quite a detailed document that I think is very fair,” he said.
He said that the stress of the unknown was causing unimaginable damage to the 30 Leaving Cert students at Coláiste Éamann Rís.
“There were lots of calls to our guidance counsellor recently and it’s been very tough on the students, and tough on the parents as well.” He said that teachers seem to be happy with the model but that the measures make for additional pressure on the school because so much information has to be gathered.
“The principal becomes the chief examiner, it is the principal who signs off so there’s an amount of work. You have to go back over the last number of years to get the profile of the school,” he said.
Cian Pierce, a student at Glanmire Community College said that the new system “relieves stress for most students”.
He said he thinks it is a better solution than sitting exams.
“I think that it's the fairest option we have right now, some students are delighted and some feel they'll be disadvantaged but I think the government has done a good job in listening to students and has provided the best possible plan for us to complete our secondary school education,” he said.