By James Ward, PA
Leaving Cert students are going into this year’s exams with “great confidence” under the new system, a principal has said.
The pandemic saw physical examinations ditched last year in favour of an accredited grades system, but this year’s students can choose between either option, or both.
The final year examinations got under way on Wednesday for 61,000 students across the country, with the majority opting for a mix of both options.
Dr Aideen Cassidy, principal at Beneavin De La Salle College, a Deis school for disadvantaged children in Finglas, Dublin, praised the outcome after a difficult two years for students.
She said: “They’re very delighted that they have their accredited grades in the pocket.
“They worked very, very hard for teachers to make sure that they got the best out of that process.
“I think it’s giving them a great confidence to come in to do the exams, because it means that they have an assurance, when the teacher says that they’ve put in all the work that they could put in, and have the grades there for them.
“Then to actually come in to do the exam, I think it’s a great testament to the accredited grade system, that they didn’t just sit back at all. It actually had the opposite effect.”
Among her own students, Dr Cassidy said around 70 per cent have opted to sit the exams, as well as 100 per cent of Leaving Cert Applied students.
Some have been unable to sit them due to contracting Covid-19, other illnesses or bereavement.
Dr Cassidy said the dual system of accredited grades and in-person exams could be beneficial to Deis students beyond the pandemic.
“There’s a little bit of me wondering, should this be the system for good for Deis schools?” she told the PA news agency.
“Because our boys lack confidence in themselves, and it means that, once they have that confidence driven through the teaching process and the accredited grades process, they now are more confident sitting the exams than ever.
“That’s interesting in itself as an outcome of Covid times.”
Students who have both an accredited grade and sit the exam will be awarded whichever result is the higher.
The exams began on Wednesday morning, opening as usual with English Paper One.
This year’s school leavers will sit papers with greater choices and fewer questions than previous years, owing to the large amount of time lost to the pandemic.
While the Department of Education’s response to the pandemic has at times been controversial, Dr Cassidy believes this year’s exams will be a success.
“I think we learned an awful lot from last year. I think, interestingly, the student voice was listened to this year. They had the choice of having both accredited grades and sitting the Leaving Cert,” she said.
“It isn’t fair to them to say they had the best of both worlds, because this has not been a good world for them this year.
“But, at the same time, it’s a really good outcome for them, in terms of having the options that are there for them.”
She said her students had been challenging themselves to do better than their predicted grades in the written exams.
Dr Cassidy added: “I think the Department did a very good job on managing that side of it. That they didn’t feel that they couldn’t come in.
“Because my lads didn’t need to come in, they have their accredited grades.
“Why did they come in? Isn’t that a great testament for them, but also the system, that they did want to come in and sit the papers, even though the Leaving Cert is one of the most challenging exams in the system.
“I think that in itself says a lot about how it’s been managed, and how they’re perceiving how they they can manage it. It has been a success in my book.”