Leaving Cert 2022 plans slammed as ‘wrong decision’ and ‘huge retrograde step’

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty described the plans as 'the wrong decision,' while Labour’s Aodhan O Riordain said the move would be 'devastating'
Leaving Cert 2022 plans slammed as ‘wrong decision’ and ‘huge retrograde step’

Vivienne Clarke

Plans to proceed with a traditional Leaving Certificate this year have been slammed as the “wrong decision” and a “huge retrograde step” by Opposition politicians.

Students will sit a traditional Leaving Cert with "some elements of choice" under new plans to be approved by Cabinet today, with the Government set to ignore demands from students for a hybrid model.

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty described the plans as “absolutely the wrong decision.” “It should be reversed immediately,” he said.

Some students were suffering with mental health issues and the pandemic had caused great disruption to their academic life, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, and they were now being asked to sit a very high-stress exam.

The fact that students had not been listened to was a “huge retrograde step,” Mr Doherty said. He hoped the Minister for Education “would see sense” and listen to students.

While a quarter of this cohort had not done the Junior Cert to provide results for the hybrid model, three quarters had and calculated grades could be used for the other quarter, he said. There was a need to find imaginative solutions.

Meanwhile the Labour party’s education spokesperson, Aodhan O Riordain, said that any move away from a hybrid model in 2022 would be “an extremely disappointing decision”.

Mr O Riordain said that such a move would be “devastating” to a cohort of students who have experienced “a massive amount of disruption”.

He acknowledged that so far the information had come in the form of a leak, and he said he would await confirmation of details from the Minister for Education Norma Foley.

The Department of Education had displayed no imagination on the possibility of an alternative form for Leaving Cert 2022, he said. It appeared to be “welded” to the old Leaving Cert which was “brutal” and needed to be reformed.

To date the Minister for Education had “always done the right thing” when it came to the Leaving Cert, but this year it appeared there had been “different voices” on education that were not “on board” with any change, Mr O Riordain said.

The Ombudsman for Children who had expressed concern about the mental health of children had been ignored, he added.

Cabinet meeting

It comes as the Cabinet is due to sign off on Tuesday on plans for a traditional Leaving Cert with "some elements of choice" in a bid to address grade inflation, according to the Irish Examiner.

The Department of Education believes it is not possible to adopt an accredited grades approach like last year, because one quarter of the students did not sit the Junior Cert and therefore the necessary data would not be available to examiners.

Students had been calling for the option of accredited grades, like last year, due to the ongoing disruption to education brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The three Government leaders met on Monday night to discuss the options available, with Minister Norma Foley set to bring proposals to Cabinet for approval on Tuesday morning.

It is understood that the plan will involve "more choice and variety" on papers to facilitate students. Marking schemes will be drawn up to ensure the overall grade profile is on par with last year.

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