How will Leaving Cert delay affect students going on to further education?

Ask Brian: There are still many unanswered questions on how academic year may change

The delay to the Leaving Cert means prospective further education students won’t know their options for next year until October at the earliest. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The delay to the Leaving Cert means prospective further education students won’t know their options for next year until October at the earliest. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

I work in a further education (FE) college and I am unclear on how the Leaving Cert delay will impact on our current students hoping to go on to third level, as well as sixth years who were due to start with us in September. Is there any clarity on these issues?

Your current students obviously face a large deal of uncertainty at the moment. Most of their concerns are the same as those shared by other students currently: access to technology; trying to complete assignments that have been set as alternatives to exams; reduced access to teachers to support them with their assignments; and the stress and anxiety that the whole situation is causing.

However, for those students who are hoping to progress through the CAO, they face the added pressure of having all of this work completed by early May to allow it to be corrected and graded by teachers for the CAO’s round zero offers (this round takes place ahead of the better-known round one offers).

If the current lockdown is extended past May 5th, it’s very difficult to see how assessment can be completed within the current timeline set by the CAO, unless all offer rounds are extended substantially this year.

In order to help alleviate this uncertainty and anxiety for students due to graduate from FE colleges, clarification urgently needs to be given to all FE institutions on the timeline for round zero offers.

If adjustments to the current tight deadlines for students to complete their assignments are made by the CAO, this will help take a lot of pressure off both your students and staff.

Regarding potential 2020-2021 students, given the late running of the Leaving Certificate this year, prospective FE students won’t know where they stand in relation to their options for next year until October at the earliest.

This is likely to mean PLC (Post-Leaving Cert) colleges won’t be able to commence their courses until late October or even November to accommodate this year’s Leaving Cert students.

This raises a number of questions. Firstly, what will this mean for the 2020/2021 academic calendar for FE colleges? Will the new academic year be extended into June 2021, or will some of the other breaks, such as February mid-term and Easter, be shortened? This is, of course, likely to raise concerns among the teaching unions.

Secondly, Leaving Cert students aren’t the only ones who do PLC/FE courses. There are a lot of mature students who do these courses to upskill and retrain in order to obtain employment. Given that many jobs may be lost following the pandemic, there will be understandable pressure from the Government on FE colleges to start upskilling courses as soon as possible to help return these people to secure employment. As things stand, we have more questions than answers.