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Leaving Cert 2021: Students want a choice of written exam or Calculated Grades

73% of second-level students said they feel either very unsafe or unsafe at schools reopening.

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE VAST MAJORITY of students want to be given the option to choose between a Leaving Cert exam and Calculated Grades, a survey by a representative body said.

The Irish-Second Level Students’ Union (ISSU) today published a report on the State Examinations 2021 and the reopening of schools.

This found that over 81% of respondents rated giving Leaving Cert students a choice between Calculated Grades or sitting in-person exams in June favourably.

The survey had over 20,000 responses, and involved a private webinar with over 250 representatives of 480 ISSU member schools.

The Department of Education had announced that Leaving Cert students and students with special needs would return to school this month, despite schools being closed for the rest of January at least.

But concerns have been raised about how safe this is during the latest surge of Covid-19.

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

The ISSU will present the survey findings to Minister Norma Foley and other education stakeholders at the advisory group meeting about the State Examinations this Friday.

The reopening of schools

On the reopening of the schools, 73% of students who responded said they feel either very unsafe or unsafe with regard to the prospect of schools reopening.

The ISSU notes that poor communications is also leading to students lacking any real trust in the Department’s decisions, with 75% of respondents saying that there trust in the Department is either “very poor” or “poor”. 

Alicia O’Sullivan, Education Officer of the ISSU said ”students are calling out for clarity”. 

“We have listened and we now have a clearer picture of what students want, and we want to work constructively with the Department and other stakeholders to make sure that all students are catered for, and that their welfare is prioritised over anything else in the coming months.”

The Junior Cert

Junior Cert students are also not in favour of exams proceeding as currently planned, with Calculated Grades or an option of calculated grades and in-person exams gathering a majority of support.

71% of Junior Cycle students who responded to the survey said they were dissatisfied with the support they have received from the Department of Education.

Speaking on the launch of the survey and consultation report, ISSU President Reuban Murray said that students want clarity.

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“We’re asking for compassion for the thousands of students who – up until now- have been asked to carry on as normal, in what are completely abnormal times. It is clear that we need to try something different,” he said.

The full ISSU Report on the State Examinations 2021 and the Reopening of Schools is attached and can be found here.

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