Department issues guidelines on wearing of uniforms for exams


SCHOOLS should be able to insist that students wear uniforms during the Junior and Leaving Certificate exams, but should not have the right to exclude students who infringe this rule, according to draft guidelines from the Department of Education.

The guidelines say schools should draw up a policy on the wearing of uniforms in consultation with parents, teachers and students. But if students breach this policy they should be dealt with by sanctions unconnected with attendance at the certificate exams".

It is also proposed that students will also have to remain in the exam hall for at least one hour before being allowed to leave. At present, students are permitted to leave after 30 minutes, but supervisors said this distracted others.

The guidelines are in response to problems which arose during last year's exams. In one incident, a student in Co Donegal was prevented from sitting a Leaving Cert paper because he was not in school uniform. The student had to return home to don the uniform before gaining admittance to the exam.

The incident caused widespread confusion over the respective powers of the school principal and the exams supervisor.

The draft best practice guide lines, which have been circulated to the education interests, follow exam reforms introduced by the Minister for Education, Ms Breathnach, last November. These provide for the Junior Cert exam results to be published earlier, and the publication of the marking schemes for Leaving Cert subjects. The first of the marking schemes is being sent to schools later this week.

The guidelines state that where a student does not come with regulations on school uniforms, the school should keep in mind the need for a "proportional" response. "It is not appropriate for school authorities to deny a candidate, who is in breach of school regulations on the wearing of uniforms, access to the exam centre.

Last year, 134,000 students sat the certificate exams, 69,000 in the Junior Cert and 64,000 in the Leaving Cert. The exams process involved 4,800 superintendents and 5,750 examiners.

The Department has asked for responses to the draft guidelines by February 7th.