A CORK TD has called on the Minister for Education to publish the contingency plans in place for the Leaving Certificate, and to be “transparent and honest” with students.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said that the past year has been “extremely difficult” for sixth-year students and said that the Department of Education has let them down badly.
“It is a disgrace that this year group have been let down so badly by the Minister and her Department," he said.
“Students need clarity on when and how these will go ahead.”
Mr Ó Laoghaire said that the current changes that have been made to the Leaving Cert paper “go nowhere near far enough” and said that “much more radical change is required".
“The Minister needs to be transparent and honest with students. She must accept at this stage that there is a question over the provision of a traditional Leaving Cert this year. It has not been a traditional 12 months for sixth-year students.
“This is urgent – the Minister must communicate with students in a clear and considered way her contingency plans for this year’s Leaving Certificate. It is the least these students deserve,” he said.
Separately, Solidarity TD Mick Barry repeated his call to cancel the Leaving Cert and asked that the Minister guarantee increased investment in third level to allow each student in sixth year this year to be offered a place in college.
Speaking in the Dáil yesterday afternoon, the Cork North Central TD expressed concern for the impact the lead-up to the exams have had on Leaving Cert students.
Mr Barry discussed an open letter which was written to the Minister by a parent of a sixth-year student who suffers from acute anxiety and was offered medication to help her in the lead-up to the exam.
Mr Barry said that both doctors and students told him that this is now a “widespread practice” and that one doctor said Leaving Cert anxiety is “particularly acute this year”.
“These students have had greater disruption to their Leaving Cert cycle than any other cohort in the history of this State. Not one major disruption, but now two,” he said.
However, the President of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) has said that they are expecting the exams to go ahead as normal and believe that it would be “very easy” to do so.
Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne ASTI President Ann Piggott said that students and teachers will be returning to the classroom as soon as possible and that there is still a long way to go to June.
Ms Piggott's comments were in response to Senator Timmy Dooley who said that it would be the "best worst option" to cancel the Leaving Certificate exams.
“I think it’s very easy for these exams to go ahead. The reason schools aren’t operating at the moment is because we want the levels of the virus to go down. Once that’s done, we expect everybody back to school, we expect everything running normally and we expect that the exams will certainly go ahead,” she said.
Ms Piggott also noted that modifications have been made to the Leaving Cert for this year and said that there are several issues with the calculated grades system.