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'Alternative assessment models' discussed at meeting about Leaving Cert plans

Most students want the exams to be cancelled, according to a new survey.

File photo
File photo

ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT MODELS were discussed by various stakeholders at a meeting about the holding of Leaving Cert examinations during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A sixth meeting was hosted by the Department of Education and Skills today with a range of stakeholders including representatives of students, parents, teachers, the State Examinations Commission, the National Educational Psychological Service and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

The Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, also attended the meeting, and representatives from the Higher Education Authority attended in an observer capacity.

In a statement released after the meeting, a department spokesperson said the advisory group “continued its discussions on the practicalities of holding the Leaving Certificate examinations, given the constraints of social distancing and other measures that may be required, based on the available medical advice”.

The group also discussed alternative assessment models, and received updates on the measures that have been put in place to support students’ wellbeing.

Practical exams

Speaking after the meeting, McHugh thanked stakeholders for “their ongoing engagement and support for the work on hand”.

“Discussions here today will assist in making decisions regarding arrangements for the Leaving Certificate that have students’ best interests at heart and that are guided at all times by the public health advice,” McHugh said.

Last month, McHugh said that 29 July was the most likely date by which the Leaving Cert exams would start.

Oral exams, which are usually held before Easter, were cancelled and students were awarded full marks. Some practical examinations, like the music practical, were also awarded full marks.

Other practical exams may still take place in subjects such as Art, Agricultural Science, Engineering, and Construction.

However, teachers have previously warned that it may not be feasible to hold such exams due to the revised timetable.

Majority of students in favour of cancellation

A second online survey by the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU), conducted between 1 and 5 May, has indicated that the majority of students are still in favour of the cancellation of exams.

Almost 24,000 final year examination students participated in the survey, and almost 79% of respondents were in favour of cancellation of exams, wanting a predicted grading model to be used instead.

This represents a 20-point shift towards cancellation in comparison to a previous ISSU survey, conducted between 26 March and 1 April. In this survey, just 49% of students chose cancellation as a first preference, which increased to 58% when June exams were ruled out.

Just 15% of students are in favour of the current proposal of starting exams on 29 July, according to the survey.

The ISSU previously came out against this decision, due to “the lack of clarity around projects and practicals, issues related to the digital divide, and a lack of welfare support available for students”.

In a statement released today, the ISSU said it is “clear that the predicted grading model needs to be developed, but it must ensure fairness and equity”.

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Ciara Fanning, ISSU president, said students are “engaging with other stakeholders to help to bring much needed clarity to this unprecedented situation”.

“Now is not the time for tradition, we need cohesive innovation amongst all stakeholders – this is not a political issue.

“We are particularly concerned about the mental health and anxiety issues brought to our attention by students in overwhelming numbers and seek to actively engage with the department and other stakeholders to work together in unity for more palatable clarity for all and explore all possible contingencies for the class of 2020,” Fanning said.

The survey size represents a sample of almost 39% of all Leaving Cert students. Students following both the traditional Leaving Certificate and Leaving Certificate Applied were included in the survey.

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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