By Dominic McGrath, PA
The Taoiseach has said he wants to provide clarity to students about the form the Leaving Certificate will take “as quickly as we possibly can”.
Taking questions from Labour leader Alan Kelly in the Dáil on Wednesday, Micheál Martin said he understood the stresses that students were under due to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Recent days have seen calls for a rethink about how school exams are to be held in Ireland this year, amid concerns about the disruption students have faced.
Students need an answer soon, the waiting for clarity is creating a level of unnecessary worry @alankellylabour urges the Government to give an indication as to when students will gain clarity and urges the Minister to do the right thing and support #HybridLC2022 pic.twitter.com/gLbzymTp8p
— The Labour Party (@labour) January 19, 2022
Staff absences caused by Covid-19, as well as the experience of school during a two-year-long pandemic, have prompted calls for another year of a “non-traditional” Leaving Certificate exam.
These calls focused on a hybrid approach to exams in which students would have a choice between sitting exams and accredited grades.
Leaving Certificate students gathered outside the Dáil on Wednesday, demanding that Education Minister Norma Foley listened to their concerns.
In the Dáil, Mr Kelly said: “Some thousands of students out there are waiting for an answer from your government as to whether the Leaving Cert will go ahead as normal this year or a hybrid Leaving Cert, which is what we have been proposing since July.”
“They need an answer,” he said.
“The stress that these students are under now at the moment is huge. I’ve spoken to many, across the country and in my own constituency.”
Mr Martin, who declined to give a date when a decision would be taken, said that a hybrid Leaving Cert posed challenges.
He said he understood that students needed “clarity as soon as possible”.
He said there had already been “significant adjustments” to the Leaving Cert to anticipate any disruption.
But he warned that it may not be possible to provide additional places at universities and colleges for the second year in a row, after Higher Education Minister Simon Harris secured extra places amid high demand from students in 2021.
“The capacity of the third-level sector to provide an equivalent amount of places this year may not be as high,” Mr Martin said.
“That creates an additional challenge. We know hybrid models can create grade inflation so there are challenges with the hybrid model that I need to put out there.”
“I’m not saying this is easy but it has to happen,” Mr Kelly responded.