Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Wednesday 6 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Leah Farrell/
Leaving Cert

Second-level students union says 'traditional' State exams can't go ahead

Two teachers unions – the ASTI and the TUI – said speculation that State exams would not be held as usual was “unhelpful”.

A SECOND-LEVEL STUDENTS union has said it was “clear” that the traditional Leaving Cert and Junior Cert exams cannot go ahead based on current plans. 

A debate has been simmering since the return of schools last week about what should happen with the Leaving Cert and Junior Cert exams this year.

Yesterday, two teachers unions – the ASTI and the TUI – said speculation that the State exams would not be held as usual was “unhelpful”. Both unions raised concerns with the hybrid model used to assess students for the past two years.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said today that the plan is for the traditional Leaving Cert to go ahead “with some modifications”.

A number of students due to sit their Leaving Cert this summer did not undertake a Junior Cert in 2020 when it was cancelled due to the pandemic – which teachers are concerned could cause problems in grading students without a benchmark to compare against. 

The ASTI had pushed for traditional State exams in 2021, but following a survey of secondary students asking what their preference was, a choice was offered to students to sit the written exams, or have their grade calculated by teachers and then ‘standardised’ by the Department of Education.

The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU) has told The Journal today that a similar online survey is currently being carried out, and will run until Friday. The results are expected to be available from next week.  

The survey not only asks its 550,000 members what students want in relation to the Leaving Cert, but also asks about temperatures in classrooms, whether students are allowed to wear jackets in classrooms, and about absences.

Around 30,000 responses are expected by the end of the week.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told Newstalk’s Lunchtime Live today that “getting back to a normal Leaving Cert” will be possible this summer.

“But I can understand the point that some people are making – both Senator [Regina] Doherty and secondary-school students is that they want to know, they want certainty.

What they don’t want is the government to tell them that it’s going ahead and then turn around and April or May and the plan has changed because there’s a new variant or because of something else. Certainly the position at the moment is, as the Minister of Education says, that the plan is to go ahead with the Leaving Cert in its normal format with some modifications.

Today, the ISSU said in a statement that the traditional State exams cannot go ahead as is currently planned – which aims to give students more choice in their exams.

Speaking on the matter, ISSU uachtarán Emer Neville said: “This year’s cohort of exam students have been very vocal about the disruption they are facing in and out of the classroom.

There is no online tuition provided to those isolating, and students have missed class time throughout 2021 and 2020, as a result of school closures. There is no way we can stand over assessing these students with the traditional Leaving Certificate.

“We are calling on the Minister of Education to take students’ voices into account and revise the decision about State Exams for 2022.”

Jack McGinn, the ISSU’s Education Officer, said that although there are concerns about some students who do not have traditional Junior Cert exam to be used for standardisation, “in light of the circumstances, we must put students first as it is their future that will be impacted”.

The Deputy President and Registrar of NUI Galway told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that he would be in favour of students sitting traditional Leaving Certificate exams this year.

What has happened in previous years

In 2020, a Calculated Grades system was used to issue grades to students, which they could use to apply for further education or third-level courses. This is a system where teachers assess students based on exams, classroom work, practical and project work, and where those results were ‘standardised’ by comparing them to the students’ Junior Cert results and previous Leaving Cert years’ results.

Last year, a hybrid model was in place where students had a choice of whether to sit an exam in June or receive a Calculated Grade in each subject. Students who opted to sit an exam after receiving their Calculated Grade were given whatever result was higher as their final grade.

The grades were translated to points on the Central Applications Office website (CAO), and a certain amount of points are needed to access the most in-demand college courses.

Due to the system of Calcualted Grades where teachers are involved, which was expected to result in marginally higher grades, these systems resulted in record-high Leaving Certificate grades, and resulted in more people advancing to third-level education.

Plans for Calculated Grades to use a school’s previous history of exam performace to ‘standardise’ grades was dropped after raising controversy and claims of an unfair system.

With reporting from Rónán Duffy.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel