'The minister spoke about reducing stress, but I think it will double': Cork concerns about LC reform plans 

"For the students who skip transition year they now go from third year into a Leaving Cert year straight away." 
'The minister spoke about reducing stress, but I think it will double': Cork concerns about LC reform plans 

The SEC also warned: “In our view holding the English essay any earlier than now will significantly disadvantage boys given their level of maturity.”

A CORK secondary school teacher and former president of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) has said she fears proposed changes to some Leaving Cert exams will increase stress on students rather than alleviate it.

Ann Piggott spoke after Education Minister Norma Foley defended plans to hold two senior cycle exams a year earlier than usual.

Internal documents showed concern among the State Examinations Commission (SEC) with the revised timeline. Paper 1 of both the English and Irish written exams are to be held at the end of fifth year, while the remaining Leaving Certificate exams are to be held at the end of sixth year as usual. The changes are to come into effect from September next year.

Ms Piggott, who has taught English at higher level for many years, and currently teaches in Coláiste Éamann Rís, said she thinks the proposed plan will ‘double’ the stress load for students.

“The minister spoke about reducing stress, but I think it will double stress because you are not just doing one exam, you are doing two separate exams,” she said.

Concerns about results timetable 

In Freedom of Information documents seen by the PA news agency, Department of Education officials detailed concerns from the SEC about the effect the new timeline may have on the exam results. Ms Piggott said the SEC need to be listened to.

“They don’t seem to want it either,” she said. “It would be a tremendous amount of extra work on them too.

“It is hard to get exam correctors as it is. It is going to probably cause more chaos. 

"I would be in favour of it remaining the way it is for now.”

The principal of Coláiste Éamann Rís, Aaron Wolfe, also has concerns.

“This was kind of sprung on us. For the students who skip transition year they now go from third year into a Leaving Cert year straight away. Rather than getting stressed for one Leaving Certificate, you will be getting stressed for two.”

In October, a department official circulated notes from SEC chief executive Andrea Feeney on the reform plans.

The notes stated: “SEC has previously pointed out that any change to the timing of these examinations beyond a few weeks will require a review of specification. These are integrated, language examinations and language competency is being assessed in both papers. Students’ ability to engage with Paper 1 improves through preparation for Paper 2.”

The SEC also warned: “In our view holding the English essay any earlier than now will significantly disadvantage boys given their level of maturity.”

It also expressed concern that holding the papers too far apart from each other may also result in “likely performance variances between males and females”.

Speaking on Newstalk, Education Minister Norma Foley said that the plans were based on feedback from parents and students who said sitting the State examinations within several weeks was a stressful experience.

“There has been absolute acceptance for many, many years now that there is absolute requirement for reform of the senior cycle,” she said. 

“And the greatest factor that is pointed in that direction, if you like, has come from parents and students themselves who have said the single greatest factor that they experience is stress and pressure coming from having to take exams all in one go, if you like, in one sitting after a two-year period.

“That has been a primary consideration.

She added: “There will be remodeling and reshaping of Paper 1 in English and I rish so as to ensure that any of the issues that have been raised will be factored in and will be accounted for.”

She said that the remodelling would ensure that every student “irrespective of gender” would be able to maximise their potential under this model.

Kinsale Community School principal Fergal McCarthy said “it is a matter of trying to balance the needs of the student with the quality of the education that they get”.

“Minister Foley wants to relieve students of the onus of writing vast volumes — English teachers are saying they need the two years for the students to mature into a good creative writer,” he said.

“They don’t want to lose sight of the creative writing dimension of it over the two-year period.

“There is a need for both sides to listen to each other’s concerns in respect of this and to see where a happy medium can be arrived at.

“It is welcome that there would be a conversation around how that can be achieved.”

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