‘Cancel the Leaving Cert’ - Fianna Fáil says uncertainty causing stress

Party education spokesman Thomas Byrne says ‘fair alternatives’ need to be examined

The Leaving Cert must be cancelled, according to Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman. Photograph: Frank Miller/File

The Leaving Cert must be cancelled, according to Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman. Photograph: Frank Miller/File

 

The Leaving Cert must be cancelled and “fair alternatives” to the State exams must be worked on, Fianna Fáil has said.

Speaking following the publication on Friday night of the Government’s plan for exiting the coronavirus lockdown, the party’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne said it had added to the “already heightened anxiety” among students.

During his television address unveiling the plan Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said schools and colleges would not reopen until September/October for the start of the new academic year.

Q&A: Will the Leaving Cert go ahead?

He did not offer additional details, but education sources say this likely means a later start to the academic year in most cases. On the Late Late Show, Mr Varadkar said it was still “the plan” to start the Leaving Cert on July 29th.

The absence of a reference to the exams in the Government’s roadmap for easing restrictions has been interpreted in some quarters as a sign of fresh uncertainty over whether they will go ahead.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Education said the Government is still planning to proceed with two weeks of school in July for Leaving Cert students, ahead of the scheduled start of the exams on July 29th.

“Planning for the Leaving Cert is still being discussed, including through the advisory group set up by the department involving education stakeholders. It is still hoped to bring just Leaving Cert students back in July, subject to adequate planning and public health advice,” the spokesman said.

However, Mr Byrne said in a statement on Saturday: “This document contains details about the phased reopening of certain sectors and industry, and sets out dates for the proposed lifting of certain restrictions but not once is the Leaving Cert mentioned. I believe this is a huge oversight and it has added to the already heightened anxiety among Leaving Cert students.

“Under this roadmap primary and secondary schools are not set to open until autumn, yet in an announcement made by the education minister [Joe McHugh] a few weeks ago, the Leaving Cert was earmarked to begin at the end of July. Leaving Certs are essentially back where they started in March – unsure what the situation is, and whether the exams will be going ahead.”

He said it was unfair to underestimate the stress students are feeling as the uncertainty about their exams.

“I believe the Government cannot continue to adopt this wait and see approach with the Leaving Cert. It is becoming clearer with every week that passes that it is simply not tenable for it to proceed.”

Mr Byrne said he had discussed alternatives with some universities and with Mr McHugh, adding: “They do exist and we must now switch our focus to them. The current situation is unacceptable and unfair and is causing untold psychological damage to these students.”