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Minister wants to change system after student had to sit Leaving Cert exam the day after her mother died

Rhona Butler said the current process is not fair on the student, family or school involved.

File photo
File photo
Image: Leah Farrell/

THE MINISTER FOR Education has said he will look into the logistics of establishing a process that better supports people who have to deal with a bereavement while sitting State examinations.

Joe McHugh made the comments while speaking to The Ryan Tubridy Show on RTÉ Radio 1 today.

One the same show yesterday, Rhona Butler spoke 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 wants 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.

When asked about the situation today, McHugh said he has spoken to Butler and wants to do something about putting a new bereavement process in place.

He confirmed that the State Examinations Commission is currently undertaking a review of the process which occurs when a student cannot sit an exam for a variety of reasons including bereavement. 

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McHugh said he couldn’t make any guarantees at this stage but is hopeful his department can respond to the issues Butler raised.

“We want to do something about this, we’ve engaged preliminarily, there’s going to be a meeting again next week … This is very much a human issue and compassion is at the centre of what we’re looking to do here,” he stated. 

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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