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Bereaved students will be allowed sit alternative Leaving Cert paper in July under new rules

Earlier this year, a student spoke on the radio about having to sit her Leaving Cert a day after her mother died.

Earlier this year, a student spoke on the radio about having to sit her Leaving Cert exam the day after her mother died.
Earlier this year, a student spoke on the radio about having to sit her Leaving Cert exam the day after her mother died.
Image: Leah Farrell

THE MINISTER FOR Education has announced a series of better supports for people who have to deal with a bereavement while sitting State examinations.

Under the pilot scheme, those who are absent from some of their examinations due to the death of a close relative at the time of the exam will be allowed sit an alternative paper in those subjects in early July.

The alternative sittings will take place over five days from Monday 8 July – Friday 12 July 2019 and will be held in Athlone.

Rhona Butler interview

The initiative comes after Rhona Butler spoke to The Ryan Tubridy Show about losing her mother to cancer while doing her Leaving Certificate exams last year. 

Her mother died on 13 June and Butler had to sit a business exam the next day. The funeral took place on a Saturday and Butler did an accounting exam the following Monday.

She said she wanted people who find themselves in a similar situation to be able sit their exams a few weeks later, rather than feeling pressured to continue with their exams or have to wait an entire year to resit them.

“If I didn’t show up on the day, that was my problem. It wasn’t the department’s, they didn’t care … they see us as exam numbers, we’re much more than that,” Butler, from Carrick-on-Suir in Co Tipperary, told Tubridy.

It’s not fair on the student, it’s not fair on the family and it’s not fair on the school either … my school couldn’t have done anything for me, they would have if they could have.

Following the interview, the minister looked into the logistics of allowing people in such circumstances sit exams at later dates. 

Minister McHugh, who spoke to Rhona yesterday about the updated rules, said: 

“I called for the review of this issue after hearing the compelling interview of Rhona Butler with Ryan Tubridy several months ago. I want to thank Rhona again for highlighting this issue and demonstrating how we should look after and support students who have suffered a loss.

“The death of a loved one is a deeply traumatic event for any young person, which will only be compounded if it occurs in the midst of exams.”

He added that the Leaving Certificate plays a hugely important role in our education system and in the progression of young people.


“We have a duty to take reasonable measures to support young people who suffer loss at such an important time for them. My hope is that the new initiative will go a small way to easing the burden and stress of bereavement and giving students space to focus on their family,” he said. 

Announcing the new provisions to assist Leaving Certificate students who suffer bereavement of close relative during exam period, the minister said a special alternative sitting of examinations is to be made available.

The scheme will also allow for a student to be absent from exams for a three-day period during the June written State examination timetable.

The three-day period will commence from the date of the death of a close relative up to and including the day after the funeral. These three days do not need to be consecutive.

The minister said the three-day period is intended to allow bereaved candidates time free from Leaving Certificate examinations to prepare for and attend the funeral of their loved one.

The new measures will apply in cases where the death of the close relative occurs during exam time, or in the two days prior to the exams commencing on 5th June.

A close relative under the scheme is a father, step-father, mother, step-mother, legal guardian, brother, step-brother, half-brother, sister, step-sister, half-sister, grandfather or grandmother.

It will also provide for the death of a son or daughter, wife or husband or civil partner of a Leaving Certificate candidate.

Under the new rules, a student who suffers a bereavement and who wishes to take particular exams during the alternative July sittings cannot also sit those same exams during the original June sittings.

The results from the alternative Leaving Certificate examinations will be available on the same days as the main examination results, on 13 August 2019.

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