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Lack of clarity about Leaving Certificate ‘causing stress among students’

Minister for Education Joe McHugh has delayed the Leaving Certificate until July or August.

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Secretary of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union Luke Casserly (Luke Casserly/PA)

Secretary of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union Luke Casserly (Luke Casserly/PA)

Secretary of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union Luke Casserly (Luke Casserly/PA)

The lack of clarity around when the Leaving Certificate will take place is causing undue stress to young people, a student leader has said.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has said “there is not and there cannot” be any guarantee that the rescheduled date for the exams will hold.

The Government has decided to press ahead with holding the exam, saying it could be held in July or August instead of June, but has said it cannot confirm a date yet due to the Covid-19 emergency.

Member of the Irish Secondary Schools Union executive, Luke Casserly, is in sixth year at St Mel’s College in Co Longford.

He told the PA news agency the speculation about whether the exams will be postponed or cancelled is making students stressed.

Luke said: “There’s been a lot of talk over the past couple of weeks about when we’ll be returning to school.

“Suggestions have included going back for two weeks, or once a week once restrictions are lifted.

“Unfortunately, there is still absolutely no certainty surrounding this.

“All this does is add stress for students at an already stressful time.

“At this stage, we want definite answers, not possibilities and discussions.”

He said while the Government announced last month that the exam will be postponed, concerns among students remain.

“While the announcement on Good Friday gave many students a sense of relief initially, I think it became clear fairly soon after that it actually left us with more questions than answers.

“This is especially disappointing as we see that students in the UK, France, and other countries know exactly what faces them.

“For example, there is still no guarantee that the exams can actually take place in July or August as the go-ahead will have to be given by public health officials.

“Two weeks in school does not seem like enough time to catch up on all projects that need to be completed and unfinished coursework.”

Luke said the class of 2020 are already facing “an unlevel playing field” as they try to adjust to life during the pandemic.

He said: “One of the most concerning issues arising from this decision is how it will impact students’ mental health and wellbeing.

“I think we all know that the Leaving Cert is an extremely stressful, and even torturous year for most people. This is no surprise as we live in a society that constantly tells young people that these are the most important exams they’ll ever sit.

“With this decision, students will now have to face continued stress and study through the summer months.

“I’ve spoken to many students who are really struggling at the minute – it’s incredibly difficult to find the motivation to keep studying, and for many, the task of studying for three or four months longer will be extremely challenging.

We're worried about how this situation will affect our futuresLuke Casserly

“For students who struggle with their mental health, this will be even more challenging.

“We’re worried about how this situation will affect our futures.

“We know already that it’s highly unlikely we’ll be starting college in September, and this raises many questions about how we will access accommodation among other things.”

Luke said the Irish Government’s decision to press ahead with the exam shows the inflexibility of the education system.

He said: “While countries across the globe have adapted to this crisis by simply cancelling their summer exams and falling back on continuous assessment and other creative and innovative solutions, we remain deeply rooted in tradition.

“Does it really make sense that six years of learning and study should end with one set of standardised exams that will determine what our students go on to do?

“I really hope that this will motivate decision-makers and stakeholders to push for a more flexible senior cycle, one that puts educating students ahead of examining them and assigning them a number that will determine their future and how society views them.”

PA