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Leaving Cert

Decision to hold Leaving Cert oral exams over Easter break will bring 'unnecessary' stress, unions say

The oral examinations were moved to the Easter holiday period for the last two academic years.

UNIONS HAVE CRITICISED the decision by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) to hold the Leaving Certificate oral exams during the Easter break as placing “unecessary” stress on students. 

The oral examinations were moved to the Easter holiday period for the last two academic years. These exams were previously held during school term time either before or after the Easter break. 

The SEC has now confirmed that the oral exams will take place in the first week of the Easter holiday period from Saturday, 23 March to Thursday, 28 March inclusive. 

“The holding of the oral examinations during the Easter holidays, instead of during term time, assists in minimising disruption to teaching and learning in schools and in particular for those candidates preparing for their examinations,” the Department of Education said. 

The president of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI), Geraldine O’Brien, said the examinations being held over the Easter break will place “additional and unnecessary stress on students”. 

“It is vital that students get a break at Easter as this is their last opportunity to do so before they embark on their final preparations for the Leaving Cert exams,” O’Brien said. 

“This point has already been raised by the students’ representative body the ISSU, as well as by students’ teachers. It is extraordinary that despite this, and despite commitments given to the ASTI regarding an extensive evaluation and engagement with stakeholders, the State Exams Commission is forging ahead,” she said. 

The Irish Second Level Students Union (ISSU) has said today that it is “extremely disappointed” at the SEC’s decision. 

“Students are put under undue pressure by taking the orals during Easter. This cuts into a deserved holiday period in which both students and teachers need to rest,” the union said. 

SEC evaluation

The SEC is currently carrying out a detailed evaluation of the timing of oral exams into the future. It has commissioned research to explore parent, student, teacher, examiner and school leadership opinions about the timing of these exams.

“The SEC considered it was best to provide certainty now to the system and to students in relation to the 2024 oral examinations, so it has confirmed that they will take place during the Easter Holidays for this year,” the Department said. 

According to the Department, the SEC found in its preliminary evaluation that “there were some challenges with the holding of the oral exams during the Easter Holidays due to the fact that students did not have access to normal term-time school support structures, such as their teachers”.

“In response, schools are being given additional funding for the Leaving Certificate oral examinations in 2024 to appoint a teacher to provide pastoral support to candidates, and ensure their attendance for the exam during the Easter holidays,” it said. 

The SEC is to begin recruitment of Leaving Cert oral examiners for 2024 next week. The Department of Education said the rate of remuneration for oral examiners will again include a premium for examining over the Easter holidays, similar to last year. 

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