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Leaving Cert 2021: Survey and emails from 'stressed' students presented to State exam Advisory Group

A survey found that most Leaving Cert students wanted a choice between Calculated Grades or in-person exams.

A THIRD MEETING of the 2021 State exams Advisory Group was held online today, where information was presented about whether students think the “traditional” Leaving Cert exam should proceed this June.

The Irish-Second Level Students’ Union (ISSU) held a survey and consultations with 250 students and gathered information sent to them over email to capture Leaving Cert students’ thoughts on what would be a fair assessment this year.

President of the ISSU Reuban Murray said that although last year was hard for Leaving Cert students, this year is even more difficult because of the increased uncertainty and lost time in school.

“It is harder, there is no clarity at all. Students are stressed and worried,” Murray told TheJournal.ie after the Advisory Group’s meeting today.

Among those who attended the meeting were Minister for Education Norma Foley, and representatives of students, parents, teachers, and schools.

The State Examinations Commission, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the Department of Further and Higher Education, and the National Educational Psychological Service were among the other agencies represented at the meeting.

The ISSU survey was conducted earlier this month with over 20,000 respondents, and found that over 81% of respondents rated giving Leaving Cert students a choice between Calculated Grades or sitting in-person exams in June favourably.

73% said they feel either very unsafe or unsafe with the prospect of schools reopening.

These findings were discussed by the Advisory Group, which agreed that there would be an “intensive set of engagements” to look at other options for the examinations.

“The group agreed that the report represented an important input to the deliberations underway,” a statement from the Department of Education said.

 The Advisory Group also received an update from the State Examinations Commission around the possible arrangements for parts of the 2021 State exams during the pandemic.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Minister Norma Foley have said repeatedly that it is their intention to hold the “traditional” Leaving Cert in June; the Calculated Grades process last year resulted in errors caused by incorrect code in the standardisation algorithm.

Murray said that the Department “recognises the importance of the student voice” and that they would “continue to engage” with the Department on the State exams issue.

We need clarity on this, but we don’t expect a 10-page plan in two or three weeks’ time. We don’t want a rushed decision, and we don’t want it dragged out either.

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Murray said that updates on what is being ruled out or what direction the State exam plans are heading in, would help bring clarity to students.

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