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Concerns raised over calculated grades process for Leaving Cert

Last week the Government cancelled the Leaving Certificate exams which were due to begin on July 29.

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Minister for Education Joe McHugh (Leon Farrell/AP)

Minister for Education Joe McHugh (Leon Farrell/AP)

Minister for Education Joe McHugh (Leon Farrell/AP)

Concerns have been raised over the Leaving Certificate predictive grade mechanism and how it will impact students.

Last week the Government cancelled the Leaving Certificate exams which were due to begin on July 29.

Instead, students will now be offered the option of accepting grades calculated by their teachers or sitting the Leaving Certificate at a later date when the pandemic eases.

However, those that choose to sit the exam will not be eligible for college this coming September.

It would not be the exam experience which students have prepared for and would have had an expectation of sitting before this crisisJoe McHugh, minister for education

On Wednesday, the education minister said he received “compelling evidence” that the Leaving Certificate exams could not be held in a reliable and valid manner.

Minister for education Joe McHugh said that students would have to wear masks and gloves if the exams went ahead this summer.

Sinn Fein’s Donnchadh O Laoghaire said he was not convinced the right alternative has been chosen.

He claimed that predicted or calculated grades are “far from reliable”.

“Even where they have long been built into the system and have a basis in track record in standardised classwork, recent State exam predictions being part of university applications,” he added.

“Here we have none of those things. Teachers are working with students who had no expectations their mocks or Christmas tests could potentially carry such weight as they now do.

“There are plenty of students who know that they can turn the gas on late in the year.”

Fianna Fail’s Thomas Byrne welcomed the decision to cancel the Leaving Certificate exams. However, he expressed concern over how the department proposes to adjust grades.

“I think that you’ve set out in the Dail the fact that the State Examinations Commission is not allowed under statute to get involved – this is a major flaw, minister, and it must be rectified at the earliest possible opportunity,” Mr Byrne said.

“There is expertise and people within the State Examinations Commission that, in my view, would be of considerable assistance to this whole process and, in fact, necessary help to this process

“I believe that independent expert advice is absolutely essential to the minister and to the department in relation to the setting up of the model to ensure that no one is disadvantaged by this model and that no one is advantaged by this model.”

Other TDs, including Labour’s Aodhan O’Riordain and Solidarity-People Before Profit TDs Gino Kenny and Mick Barry, claimed that part of the new system discriminates against working class students.

There is also ongoing concern over attempts to influence teachers in relation to the calculated grades process.

Mr McHugh said that after consulting with the State Examinations Commission and the Department of Health, it became “evident” that exams held in July and August would be very different to the normal process.

“It would not be the exam experience which students have prepared for and would have had an expectation of sitting before this crisis,” the minister added.

“The State Examinations Commission advised me that the examinations would not be comparable to the Leaving Certificate in any other year, potentially involving the needs for students to wear masks and gloves sitting exams, superintendents requiring PPE, and the prospect of the exam papers having to be redesigned to such an extent that they would have been unrecognisable compared to what students have spent two years preparing for.

“All this raises fundamental issues of fairness.”

Mr McHugh added: “In addition to issues of fairness and physical health, I also had to give regards to the mental health and wellbeing of our young people.

“I was given advice by my department’s National Educational Psychological Service about the anxiety, stress and trauma being experienced by young people in the midst of this terrible pandemic.”

He said the new plan will allow students to progress to the next stage of their life.

PA