Cork-based education officer of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union Alicia O’Sullivan has praised students’ efforts in helping decide their futures following the Government’s decision on the Leaving Certificate 2021.
Minister for Education Norma Foley announced this week that Leaving Cert students will have a choice between receiving State Examinations Commission-accredited grades, sitting the written exams, or both.
The move follows engagement with education stakeholders including students, parents, teacher unions, school management bodies and the commission, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the Department of Further and Higher Education and the Higher Education Authority.
In preparing for the engagement, Ms O’Sullivan, along with union president Reuban Murray, and the 37 regional officers from across the country, carried out a consultation process that saw 25,000 students from its 480 member secondary schools respond to a survey in relation to the Leaving Cert.
Following a thorough validation process, 20,000 of those responses were used to build a report, as well as an online town hall consultation that had 250 students in attendance.
She said that although the majority of students wanted choice on the Leaving Cert, “it could never be totally representative”.
“We could never advocate for what every student wants because I’m sure there are still students disappointed with the decision but after a consultation process it became apparent that a strong majority of students, 81%, favoured choice as the solution so we had a job then to advocate for that,” she said.
She said that the decision announced by the Government is “a win for the Irish Second Level Students’ Union and students as a whole”.
“If we take it into perspective, three or four weeks’ ago, choice wasn’t on the table at all. Ourselves, students and parents, both outside and inside the meetings, called for choice and now we’re talking about the fact that choice has been announced so that’s actually historical for something like this to happen.
“10 or 20 years’ ago student voices weren’t exactly listened to and now you have a situation where students have essentially overturned their own Leaving Cert and have achieved something amazing and something fair,” she said.
She said that although there are “a lot of questions still to be answered around standardisations, the appeals’ process, and changes to the exams” that the bottom line is students will receive two sets of results if they so wish, which is what was advocated for.