‘It’s time to give the Leaving Certificate back to students’
Daire Hennessy addressing the Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science in relation to Reform of the Leaving Cert

‘It’s time to give the Leaving Certificate back to students’

“It’s time to give the Leaving Certificate back to students” was Citywise Education’s closing statement during a recent Oireachtas address on reform of the State exam, reports Mary Dennehy.

In September, the Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science commenced an examination of Leaving Certificate Reform.

This examination has in recent weeks included a number of roundtable discussions, with Daire Hennessy, Chairman of the Youth Steering Committee at Citywise addressing the Committee on behalf of the Jobstown-based education centre.

Citywise made a detailed submission to the Joint Committee, with Daire last week delivering the opening address.

Daire, who started in Citywise when he was eight, said: “Assessment should have a purpose, and that purpose should not be to sum up five or six years of learning into a single number.

“It seems that the Leaving Certificate is considered an entrance exam to third level education, as opposed to a final exam for secondary school.

“The assessment process should accredit the work of students, while also facilitating and fostering learning in its own right.”

Daire added: “The current system puts teachers in a difficult position, with regard to what they should teach and how they approach their classes.

“We shouldn’t let an exam dictate what and how we teach and learn in the classroom. A rigid system doesn’t lend itself to the development of such skills – communication, collaboration, problem solving – the transferable skills we talk about regularly.

“We need to learn to trust our schools, we need to widen our consideration to subjects and educational pursuits, which have traditionally been un-examined.

“When we speak to students, it’s very often the experiences, the projects and the informal learning which seem the most impactful.

“These worthwhile learning opportunities can be side-lined under the current system, in the name of the points race.

“They not only need to be protected, but they should be recognised and accredited.

“Whilst of course recognising the importance of numeracy, literacy and the skills and knowledge traditionally central to the Leaving Cert, it is important to include in these discussions, the ‘other’ learning that takes place in schools.”

Daire also asked the Committee to consider the role community organisations such as Citywise can play in senior cycle teaching and learning.

“I’ve seen a community approach to education work for my local area. Work for me,” Daire said.

“We’ve been supporting 15 local schools for many years, offering the kind of informal learning opportunities I have already mentioned, while supporting student wellbeing and offering educational support.

“We can help.”

Citywise Education, which provides out-of-school supports to young people, is delivering programmes which see over 85 per cent of its members go on to third level education.

“This is from a community which unfortunately has little history of such participation in post-secondary education,” Daire said during the Citywise address.

“The last census found that five per cent of people in the immediate area to Citywise, the area where I am from, have a college degree.”

The Citywise submission focuses on putting the young person at the centre of learning and ensuring the Leaving Cert is used to examine the secondary education journey – and is not just used as an entrance exam to college.

Summing up, Daire said: “No matter how many CAO points you got, it’s time to give the Leaving Cert back to students.”

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