Call for Saturday Leaving Cert exams to ease ‘appalling’ pressure on students

About 70 pupils face sitting three exams in a single day due to timetable congestion

School principals have called for Leaving Cert exams to be held on Saturdays to help ease “appalling” pressure on students.

About 70 students in total in this year’s exams face sitting three exams in a single day, over the course of about nine hours, due to subject clashes and timetable congestion.

However, the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals says the number of students affected is set to rise as more subjects are added to the Leaving Cert curriculum.

At present, some 35 subjects on the curriculum are examined over two and a half week period in June.


These numbers are set to increase when computer science and PE are added to the senior cycle curriculum.

In addition, there are plans to include more foreign languages - such as Chinese - on the curriculum.

The State Examinations Commission says it will explore alternative solutions with education partners to address the issue of timetable congestion.

Shorter exams

Clive Byrne, director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, said one solution was to hold some exams on Saturdays, or else make exams generally shorter.

Extending exams into the final week of June posed problems for schools and could make it more difficult to hire supervisors, he said.

In addition, it would shorten the window of time available to correct Leaving Cert exams.

“Three exams in one day is appalling. It amounts to enormous stress on students. If exams are to remain in the traditional two-and-half week timeframe, we should look at holding them on Saturdays,” Mr Byrne said.

“Alternatively. shorter exams should be examined. If a student has to sit three exams, they could be three one-and-a-half hour exams.

“We now have exams in English and history which last three hours and 20 minutes. This done’t even happed at second-level.”

The introduction of politics - a new subject on the curriculum - to the Leaving Cert this year has put exam congestion in the spotlight.

A total of 16 Leaving Cert students have to sit their politics exam in a special evening sitting due to subject clashes.

Some of these students –11 in total – will end up sitting three exams in a single day. This means they will sit their first exam at 9.30am and will not finish until 8pm.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent