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Leaving Cert exams to have 'additional choice' but will not change in length

Education Minister Norma Foley said this afternoon that the changes will ‘play to students’ strengths’.

An English exam paper from 2015.
An English exam paper from 2015.
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Jan 14th 2021, 2:43 PM

EDUCATION MINISTER NORMA Foley has said there will be “additional choice” in this year’s Leaving Cert but there will be “no change” to the length of the exams. 

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Norma Foley said that an advisory group involving students, parents, teachers, education providers and the department is meeting regularly to discuss the planned hosting of Leaving Cert 2021. 

The minister said this had included discussions around the disruptions faced by students in the Leaving Cert cycle over the past couple of years. 

Schools have not reopened after the Christmas break due to the community spread of Covid-19. Special education classes are to begin returning from next week.  

As part of changes to Leaving Cert grading this year, Foley said this would include “leeway” in relation to the timing that project work is submitted.

“Already a number of adjustments to assessment arrangements have been made at Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate level,” the minister added. 

“Taking into account the disrupted learning experienced by students during 2019 and 2020 and the further possible loss of learning time in the 2021 school year as a contingency measure.

The adjustments play to students’ strengths by leaving intact the familiar overall structure of the exams, while incorporating additional choice. There would be no change to the length of the written exams.

Last year’s Leaving Cert exams did not proceed and instead students were provided final results based on calculated grades. 

The minister said she is aware of people, including students, who have been calling for the same to take place this year or other alternatives put in place. She added that all viewpoints are being considered.

“Let me be clear on this, my department and I are listening to students on this and indeed to all the other stakeholders involved. The advisory group has met several times already and a further meeting is planned short,” she said. 

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Speaking during the debate, Labour’s Aodháin Ó Ríordáin said that the current situation for Leaving Cert and Junior Cert student is “intolerable” and he expressed concern that they may not be returning to classes for some months. 

“The level of uncertainty that is rising for them, having lost 11 weeks of  tuition in the last academic year and indeed the month of January. I think if we’re honest with ourselves it’s much easier to close schools than it is to reopen them. With the numbers that are circulating around and with the death count rising, it is unlikely that we’ll see schools open before the midterm break and possibly before Patrick’s Day and possibly beyond.”

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Rónán Duffy

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