Cork North Central TD Mick Barry this morning called for the cancellation of the 2021 Leaving Cert exams.
The Solidarity TD said that this year's Leaving Cert students will be “the first cohort of students in the history of the State to face major disruption of their classroom studies in both years of their final exams cycle”.
Deputy Barry said that a decision to cancel exams would give peace of mind to students and expressed concern that failure to cancel the exams relatively soon “would risk the potential for an unacceptable level of mental health pressure on a large number of Leaving Cert students”.
#Canceltheleavingcert. Exams should now be cancelled as they have been in Scotland, Wales and England. Mental health pressures unacceptably high. Key to any alternative is to increase third level places to the point where any LC2021 student who wants a place can have one.— Mick Barry TD (@MickBarryTD) January 6, 2021
He also called for a “major investment” into third level education to create “a very large number of extra college places and allow students access their first or second choice options”.
Deputy Barry called for a debate on alternatives to the Leaving Cert but said that if a sufficient number of new third-level places were to be created “controversial options such as predictive grading would not be necessary”.
He added that a major debate on the “future of the Leaving Cert proper” is needed and voiced the opinion that it is an “outdated exam which creates too many pressures on young people”.
Students have expressed concern about this year's Leaving Certificate after Taoiseach Micheál Martin said yesterday that the government has a “commitment” to ensuring that exams go ahead as normal this year.
The Government are expected to formally announce today that schools are to close in Ireland until at least the end of January. In Britain, GCSE and A level exams have been cancelled.
Some Irish students have expressed concern over the exams going ahead, leading to an online petition calling for predicted grades to be made optional for current sixth years.
It had been signed by over 13,000 people as of yesterday.
“Students have missed months of tuition and a normal Leaving Cert will be impractical this year," Welfare Officer for the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU) Matthew Ryan said.
Mr Ryan described predicted grades as “a tricky situation,” adding: “in order for this to be possible, work needs to begin now from the Department of Education in order to have the foundations laid for a fair and accurate system.”
Not all students are convinced by Micheál Martin’s “commitment”, comparing it to Leo Varadkar’s comments last year saying that Leaving Cert 2020 would go ahead “by hook or by crook.”
Conor McGreevy, a sixth year student from Carrigaline Community School said: “I just find it hard to see how they can commit to a Leaving Cert as of now, I think it’s something Minister for Education Norma Foley herself needs to come out and talk about, not the Taoiseach.”
However, some education stakeholders agree that the leaving cert should go ahead.
“Every Leaving Cert student sits the same paper at the same time, corrected by an independent corrector using the same marking scheme," Aelín O’Donoghue, Deputy Principal of Presentation Brothers’ College said.
"That is fairness. I sincerely hope that the Leaving Cert takes place this year and appropriate allowances can be factored into the setting of papers, to reflect missed tuition time.
"Predictive grades will not ever replace the integrity of the Leaving Cert.”