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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 30 March, 2020

Minister to consider letting 'crisis' students sit exams later

The issue of allowing Leaving Cert students to take an exam after missing it due to a ‘crisis’, rather than having to re-do their year of study, is to be considered by the Minister of State for Education.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

STUDENTS WHO UNDERGO a crisis – such as an illness, bereavement or accident – and miss a Leaving Certificate exam should be allowed to sit it at another date rather than repeat their entire year of school, a Cork TD has said.

Deputy David Stanton brought the issue to the Dáil, and Minister of State for Education, Ciarán Cannon, said he was willing to engage with the TD to see if progress can be made on the issue.

Deputy Stanton described it as “an important humanitarian issue” and used the example of a young man he knows “who is doing the Leaving Certificate but who is quite ill and may not be able to sit two papers on the same day”.

Some 57,000 students are sitting the leaving certificate this year and I take the opportunity to wish them well. However, roughly less than 1% of those would be what I would call “crisis” students. These are students who, during the leaving certificate examination period, either suffer a bereavement or have a serious accident or get seriously ill which prevents them from sitting one subject or a number of subjects.

The Deputy suggested that within four to six weeks of not being able to sit the examination for one of these ‘crisis’ reasons, these students would be facilitated to sit the examination.

It would not be a re-sit because they would not have sat the exam. If they were to take part in the original examination process, they would not be able to go ahead.

He suggested that students could go to a regional centre, adding that teachers and examiners are available as well as a back-up paper for each subject.

All the logistical reasons against doing this can be countered. It would make a great difference to these students because they would not lose a full year. This issue should be considered from a humanitarian point of view. I realise it is too late for this year but something should be done for next year.

The Minister of State replied that each year, arrangements are made to cater for a wide range of personal emergencies, which include alterations to the standard examination timetable and special sittings in venues such as hospitals.

The issue of repeat examinations was considered prior to the State Examinations Commission’s establishment by the Department of Education and Skills. It was concluded that the constraints inherent in a terminal and externally examined examination system result in significant difficulties in respect of the provision of repeat examinations.

He added that the State examinations are run against the tightest of timescales and to maximum capacity, so it is not possible to hold repeat examinations and have results available to the deadlines required.

However, the Minister said he “would be more than willing to engage further with the Deputy in the coming weeks and to engage directly with the SEC” to:

establish whether we could reassess the decision taken some time ago not to include the opportunity for repeat examinations for children or young people who experience trauma during examination time and to establish if any further progress can be made.

Read: Over to you: what advice do you have for people doing the Leaving Cert?

Read: Students advised to take care of mental health over exam period>

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