By Michelle Crean
Minister for Education Norma Foley has said that “all stakeholders have worked extremely hard to get to this point” in deciding the way forward for the 2021 State exams. Junior Cert students will now not have to undergo a sit down exam with students instead being assessed through a calculated grade process, while Leaving Cert students face a choice of calculated grades or a sit down exam. Students who decide to take an exam will receive whichever result is higher between their calculated grade and the result from the written exam.
The Dept and its stakeholders have said that they wanted to put a fair system in place “having regard to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic and the loss of learning that has occurred for this group of students due to the interruption of in-person teaching and learning during the periods of school closure”.
The Minister said that she has “listened carefully to all”, and they have “worked together to find solutions” and that the exams are expected to begin on June 9.
However, teachers’ union are calling for further engagement to clarify some points including having external examiners for oral and practical exams and have concerns about how teachers could come under pressure from parents over the calculated grades in the coming months. Concern also remains about how teachers will navigate the two exam choices whilst teaching. They’re hoping to have further clarity from the Dept in the coming days.
Acting principal for St Brendan’s College, Hugh Rudden, said that while the announcement is welcome and gives clarity to students and teachers, there are concerns around the various subjects and how they’ll be assessed.
“Some subjects have three components of assessment. Some students thrive on the practical element and others on the academic. That does lead to a certain amount of uncertainty and hopefully we’ll get that clarity.”
Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors, said that the fact that students finally have a decision is to be welcomed.
“The fact that Leaving Cert students will have the choice to opt for ‘accredited grades’ from the State Exams Commission, to sit some or all of the exams in June or to opt for a combination of both, is also positive news. While we do have clarity on some aspects of the process, much of it is still unclear. For many students making decisions is difficult so I urge all Leaving Certs to stay focused on study and revision. We now know the plan but it is important to get all of the detail over the coming weeks before deciding what option suits a particular student. The Minister has said that students will have until May to make that decision so my advice is to take time to let it sink in and take some time out to relax before returning to school (remotely) on Monday. The same applies to Third Year students. Although the exams won’t go ahead, assessment will take place at school level and all learning this year is building towards transition into senior cycle so it’s important to stay engaged in learning.”
Meanwhile, according to Taoiseach Michael Martin on Thursday, schools “may” reopen on a phased basis from March 1, beginning with Junior and Senior Infants, as well as Leaving Cert students.