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Leaving Cert: Exam timetable released as parents could face 'sanctions' for lobbying

Norma Foley has said the sanctions could include students being barred from sitting exams.

Education Minister Norma Foley.
Education Minister Norma Foley.
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Feb 18th 2021, 12:35 PM

EDUCATION MINISTER NORMA Foley has said the government will look at introducing legislation to prevent parents canvassing teachers about student grades. 

Foley said this morning that the sanctions could include students being barred from sitting exams. 

The schedule for those exams was published this morning, with the Leaving Cert slated to begin on Wednesday 9 June with English Paper I. 

The exams will run for for almost three weeks until 29 June, with the minister for Education stating last night that orals and practicals would take place over Easter.  

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) had last year called for a form of sanctions for parents who engaged in lobbying, suggesting that this could take the form of a “public record”.

That call came as the last year’s Leaving Cert calculated grades process was being rolled out.

Plans outlined by the government yesterday for this year’s Leaving Cert would see students have the choice of whether to sit an exam in each subject or receive a calculated grade, to be known this year as an SEC-Accredited Grades. 

Students who opt to sit an exam would receive whatever result is higher between the two. 

Speaking to Philip Boucher-Hayes on RTÉ radio this morning, Foley said that she is hoping that “the maximum number of students will take the exams in June”.

She noted however that the exams will have an “equal value” as the calculated grades which will be accredited by the State Examinations Commission.

Foley also said she has “every confidence” that parents will not “interfere with the professionalism of teachers” but that legislation is being drafted to prevent this. 

“We are most certainly looking to bring in legislation to prevent the canvassing of teachers. And equally teachers will be indemnified in the process as well as they were last year. So it is not acceptable, it should not happen and we will do all the work necessary to ensure that it won’t happen,” he said.

We’re looking to bring in legislation to prevent canvassing of teachers, and there will be sanctions for that obviously. There will be sanctions very similar to, I would imagine and this is currently being worked through, in terms of sanctions that are already in existence where students can be disbarred from a particular exam or from the State exams. 

PastedImage-94318 Source: examinations.ie

Reacting to the government’s announcement last night, teachers’ union the ASTI welcomed the fact that the exams are to proceed and that orals and practicals will be a feature. 

The ASTI also welcomed that students will not be required to rank students in order as was the case last year. 

The union however expressed “bitter disappointment” that SEC Accredited Grades will not be underpinned by externally validated elements such as coursework projects or projects.

“The unavailability of an option for students to undertake externally validated second components, coursework, project work, orals and aurals if they opt to choose the pathway of SEC Accredited Grades adds to this omission and is a regrettable injustice for these students,” the union said in a statement last night. 

Asked about the union’s concerns this morning, Foley said that unions had “endorsed many aspects of what has been announced”. 

“I know this from personal experience coming from a teaching background myself, teachers know their students. And they have known them throughout fifth year and into sixth year now and we must remember that in fifth year there was uninterrupted learning from September right through to the March, notwithstanding the loss of three months then from March,” she said. 

Leaders’ Questions

The Leaving Cert was raised in the Dáil this afternoon during Leaders’ Questions, with Labour leader Alan Kelly describing it “the dysfunctional department in government”.

He raised the question that the ASTI has spoken about, asking why students who are option for an SEC-Acreddiated Grade shouldn’t also do orals and practicals. 

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“This type of external assessment will give both teachers and students peace of mind, and we in the Labour Party would ask you to consider this as a constructive option,” he said. 

Kelly also asked whether the Leaving Cert plan had been “Tony Holohona and NPHET proofed”. 

“Is there any chance that any of this can be torpedoed because of CMO doing his job, NPHET doing their job and giving advice,” he said. 

In response, Tánaiste Leo Varadar said that NPHET has given advice on all elements of school reopening and that it should be done “on a gradual basis”.  

He said the return to school would begin for Leaving Cert classes and young children before an assessment is made a few weeks later on whether “a further reopening” could take place.  

“So that is the plan and that’s the approach that NPHET has advised us is the one most appropriate. But this will be discussed again this evening at the at the Cabinet sub-Committee on Covid,” Varadkar said. 

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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