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Am empty exam hall in Dublin. (File) Laura Hutton/

Leaving Cert plans could be revealed as early as tomorrow as various options being explored

Schools have remained closed since the Christmas break.

LAST UPDATE | 1 Feb 2021

THE CABINET SUB-COMMITTEE on Education will meet later this afternoon discuss the options being considered for this year’s Junior and Leaving Certificates. 

Tomorrow will see the full Cabinet discuss the proposals with the Advisory Group tasked with plotting a course for the examinations also set to meet tomorrow, with Minister Simon Coveney stating some clarity could be brought to the situation then.  

Today’s Cabinet sub-committee is set to begin its meeting at 4pm. 

Among the options for the Leaving Cert include holding the exams in the traditional manner or repeating last year’s calculated grades system. A hybrid model of the two has also been suggested. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that “we may have news this week” but that officials want to ensure the proposals are watertight before there is an announcement. 

“We do need to bring clarity to that, I accept there’s a lot of stress and anxiety out there but what is more important is that, when an announcement is made, that the ‘I’s are dotted he ‘T’s are crossed in terms of the proposals that the minister will be coming forward with,” he said. 

The Taoiseach noted that the students due to the Leaving Cert this year missed almost three months of in-class teaching last year and have already missed a month this year.

Asked in those circumstances where it was fair to ask them to sit a full Leaving Cert examination, Martin said it is a “very important consideration”.

“We’ve heard the students voices very loudly in that respect and it cannot be obviously ignored. But there are different views from the wider student body and teachers generally in relation to this. But what is clear is we do need to bring clarity to reduce anxiety for students and their families,” he said.

Speaking in The Irish Examiner today, Martin said there are “quite a number of options” in relation to how the Leaving Cert proceeds and that “the precise options” are still being finalised. 

“What’s key to the written exam is class time and class engagement between the teacher and the students. We have to take that reality into account and that’s exactly what’s being discussed now between the Minister and the union and students as well,” he said.

The government’s Advisory Group on planning for state examinations 2021 incudes representatives of students, parents, teachers, school leadership and management bodies, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) and the Department of Education. 

The group has been meeting regularly to discuss the impact of ongoing school closures and the scope and form for examinations to take place.

The ASTI’s general secretary Kieran Christie said today that his union is of the view that the Leaving Cert should go ahead “insofar as is possible”.  

“We’re consistent in our message that we believe that the Leaving Cert insofar as possible is their preferred option from an ASTI point of viewto go ahead,” he told RTÉ’s News at One.

“Once you stray away from the traditional examination it becomes very tricky indeed. Last year’s process of calculating grades for instance, we’re not convinced that that’s a system that could operate properly at all this year. And we’re not convinced for instance that it would reduce the stress and anxiety within the school community. It may even do the opposite.”

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