Government promise decision on Leaving Cert; Cork student says uncertainty bad for mental health 

Government promise decision on Leaving Cert; Cork student says uncertainty bad for mental health 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that if a decision is taken to cancel the exams, a "fair alternative" must be put in place. 

The deliberation regarding this years Leaving Certificate is hanging over students and affecting their mental health, according to Coláiste Éamann Rís student Alex Linehan, who is supposed to sit his exams on July 29.

He made the comments after the Government said the uncertainty surrounding this year's Leaving Certificate exams will be brought to an end this week.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that if a decision is taken to cancel the exams, a "fair alternative" must be put in place. 

Mr Varadkar faced heavy criticism from opposition leaders over the handling of the exam arrangements.

“There is a lot of uncertainty around the exams and my motivation has gone out the window," Alex told The Echo. "I don’t think it should go ahead. It is not feasible and dragging it out into the summer is putting additional stress and pressure on our mental health.” 

Alex said when they started homeschooling in early March he put in a good deal of work but said it has gotten harder to keep up with his studies as the weeks go on.

“I’m hoping it will be called off and I really hope they have a plan B.” 

Alex said he would be in favour of predictive grading as a fair alternative to taking an exam in the middle of a global pandemic.

Another student at Coláiste Éamann Rís, Haiden Kenefick, said he would like to see the exams go ahead.

“The amount of work we have put in over the past few years, I would like the chance to see it pay off.” 

But he added that he would be open to an alternative plan, as long as it was fair and balanced.

Education Minister Joe McHugh has been meeting with stakeholders to discuss all contingency options.

Mr McHugh has previously said he wants the State exams to begin on July 29.

Several alternatives to holding the exam have been raised, such as predictive grades.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin hit out at the Government's "lack of clarity and confusion".

He added: "Why have members of Government talked about starting the exams without any detail on how this can be accomplished?

"There is no way of addressing concerns and preferences of every student but there are basic principles of equity which must be addressed.

"In recent days I have heard from many principles and teachers in many parts of the country about how certain students are not able to match others in terms of home-based learning.

"One principal told me that his best student has nothing more than a small smart phone to rely on.

"Other students have family members testing positive with obvious implications for their capacity to study, given the need for parents to self-isolate.

"Policy cannot be based on assuming that every student has a laptop, a room they can learn alone in and a school which has the resources that can learn online.

"I am genuinely surprised that there has been nothing published so far by the Government assessing what the teaching and learning environment has been for Leaving Certificate students in the past two months."

Meanwhile, Labour leader Alan Kelly claimed the crisis exposed a "dysfunctionality" within the Department of Education.

"The handling of the Leaving Cert has been an unmitigated disaster, so please intervene," he told Mr Varadkar.

"The stress that these students have been put under has been intolerable and this needs to be finished.

"We need a plan B and it needs to be out there this week and it needs to be agree.

"This cannot go beyond this week, it is unfair. It's completely wrong.

"The handling of it from the Department of Education has shown a dysfunctionality that hasn't been seen in some while."

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