Students send letter to Taoiseach demanding clarity over exams

By Maurice Garvey

CALLS for clarity with regard to this year’s Leaving Certificate exams are included in an open letter sent to the Taosieach this week by students from Coláiste Bríde Presentation Secondary School in Clondalkin, reports Maurice Garvey.

Head girls at the school Heather Murphy, Eniola Sangoyomi and Liepa Andrulyte, penned an extensive letter to Michael Martin outlining proposals for a “non- traditional Leaving Cert” and concerns of their peers and fellow students nationwide.

1 Colaiste Bride 1

The students attend Colaiste Bride

Both opposition and Government parties have this week asked Education Minister Norma Foley to provide certainty or give a date as to when a decision will be made, and to publish contingency plans.

The Coláiste Bríde letter understands the pressure that Government have to “conclusively decide the fate” of Leaving Cert 2021 but the “lack of clarity, and uncertainty” could “conceivably be addressed with strong leadership”.

It calls for a “decision-making policy now at a time of national crisis”, which is leading to the “mental health deterioration of many students in our school and around the country”.

The Head girls note that Covid has added “more tension and anxiety than ever before”.

“Not only are we missing out on valuable time due to the recent school closures, which we might add was the right decision, but we were also affected by the extensive school closures last year during the period of March to May.

“This greatly impacted our performance as we adjusted to an online learning setting which was difficult, and is still difficult for many. The idea of sitting the established Leaving Cert and Leaving Cert Applied this June, especially with the state of the virus, its deterioration, its ability to derail plans, structures, timetables, calendars, is truly frightening.”

 The students feel it is “unnecessary and unreasonable” to continue to proceed with “traditional norms” of sitting the exams with the spiked cases “prompting doubt” in students minds.

While they acknowledge online learning is the “next best option”, it is not suitable for all, and there are certain aspects of courses “which simply cannot be done online”.

“This is not to say that we wish for a rushed return to the classroom either. You and your Department have an opportunity now to listen to students, teachers, parents/guardians. Put your contingency plans in place now – ones that can be implemented regardless of the condition of this virus and its impact on our lives in June.”

The students hope to see schools reopen but feel at a “real disadvantage” even in amended formats for 2021.

“The edits and amendments do not go far enough to narrow the gap. We ask that further clarity on the options we have as a year group be given to us.”

The Clondalkin students propose the option of a non- traditional Leaving Cert.

This includes alternative methods of doing orals, further modifications in written papers, recorded orals sent to examiners, dividing exam papers into smaller parts over different time frames, and the option of calculated grades.

“In our school we are asked to be creative and solution focused.

“We now ask the Government to do the same. Show us the continuous improvements and innovation that you speak of in your strategy statement for education.”

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