Student burnout fears: mixed reaction in Cork to Leaving Cert decision

Student burnout fears: mixed reaction in Cork to Leaving Cert decision
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There are fears by some in Cork that the decision to postpone the Leaving Certificate exams will lead to additional stress for students. 

Education Minister Joe McHugh confirmed yesterday that the exams would take place in late July and early August, with a timetable available in early June and reaction from Cork teachers has been mixed. 

Joe McHugh announced the changes yesterday. 
Joe McHugh announced the changes yesterday. 

“Students and their families have been seeking clarity,” Mr McHugh said. “Today’s announcement addresses that. It also provides them with several weeks’ of advance notice to prepare for the examinations. I hope it helps to alleviate some stress being experienced by students and their families at this time.

“Asking Leaving Certificate students and their families to refocus their attention from June to August is not something we do lightly. I know it will not be easy.

“However, I believe it is the fairest way of assessing students.”

Teacher Richard Terry of St Colman’s College in Fermoy said he thought holding the Leaving Cert exams later in the summer was the “least worst option”, but said students ran the risk of burning out ahead of the testing period.

“The Leaving Cert year is very intense, and you’re gunning to be peaking in June,” he told The Echo. “Now that timeline has been extended by two months, do you keep working and stay focused and run the risk of burning out, or do you take a breather for a while and then plough on?”

Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said more clarity is needed.

“We now do not have an actual date for a Leaving Cert, which is unprecedented,” he said.

“For students, the ongoing stress and anxiety continues, and it has been unbearable at a time when anxiety is already high.”

He called for resources and a helpline for students.

“What needs to happen now is major preparation, and it needs the whole education sector to be involved,” he said. “Even to try and deliver a written Leaving Cert safely in July or August, it cannot be the normal Leaving Cert, because it seems unlikely we will be fully back to normal as a society.

“We will now need a much greater number of venues, of invigilators, specific provisions for scribes, and so on. Any and all contingency plans should be published.”

Tracey Kennedy, principal of Carrignafoy Community College in Cobh, welcomed the decision. 
Tracey Kennedy, principal of Carrignafoy Community College in Cobh, welcomed the decision. 

Tracey Kennedy, principal of Carrignafoy Community College in Cobh, welcomed the decision, as she said it “was becoming obvious that there was not enough time to get students back into the classroom”.

“While it is a pity we don’t have more certainty on a start date, I understand the situation, and am relieved it is going ahead,” she said.

However, Aaron Wolfe, acting principal at Coláiste Éamann Rís, said the news was “a disaster”.

“To correct a high-level Leaving Certificate paper can take at least an hour per candidate, and I can’t see there being a big uptake [in teachers correcting exams] when people would be trying to juggle this with their teaching jobs.”

He also said students were finding it hard to study, and did not always have access to wi-fi or a study space.

The Education Minister said students with special educational needs will be fully supported in sitting the rescheduled exams and said the intention was to allow at least two weeks of class time in school, before the Leaving Certificate examinations begin.

The Junior Certificate exams have been cancelled, and are to be replaced by school-based assessments early in the school year.

Mr Terry said the cancellation would make life difficult for pupils.

“Many subjects they won’t be continuing, and it will be hard to decide what they are best at, without a proper conclusion of the material. I think it is very unfair on the students,” he said.

In a statement last night, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland said it has a number of serious concerns about elements of the announcement and will be seeking clarifications in relation to these.

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