Leaving Cert to begin on July 29th, Minister for Education tells Dáil

Some 4,000 students could miss out on college places in UK due to delayed exams

The Minister for Education Joe McHugh said that he had spoken to his British counterpart Gavin Williamson over concerns for  4,000 Irish applicants for UK college places this year.

The Minister for Education Joe McHugh said that he had spoken to his British counterpart Gavin Williamson over concerns for 4,000 Irish applicants for UK college places this year.

 

The Leaving Certificate exams will start on July 29th, Minister for Education Joe McHugh has confirmed.

He told the Dáil that the formal timetable would be announced in the first week of June when details would be released.

Earlier however he said the Government was considering all contingencies including predictive assessment as he was criticised by the Opposition for the poor communications by his department leaving students, parents and teachers frustrated.

The Dáil heard that British university offers to 4,000 Irish students could be affected by the delay in the Leaving Certificate results being issued.

Mr McHugh acknowledged it was a “major issue” and they were taking seriously the concerns that offers will be withdrawn to Irish students if results are not known before August 31st.

The Minister acknowledged the criticism about communications but said 1,300 staff in his department had had to change the way they were working, and they were being bombarded with work.

Uncertainty

Questioned by Green Party education spokeswoman Catherine Martin about predicted grades, and if there was a plan B, he said “we’re working on all contingencies because we do not anticipate things to be normal any time soon.”

“We do not anticipate that we are going to be any more informed or less informed next week or the following week.

“With that level of uncertainty we have a moral obligation and a duty to work on all contingencies”. He added that they were doing this with the stakeholders - the students, parents, the unions and the different patron bodies.

He said that he had spoken to his British counterpart Gavin Williamson over concerns for the 4,000 Irish applicants.

He was responding to Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire who said he had been contacted by the father of a student who had received two conditional offers from UK universities to study medicine.

“Both universities are insisting that those offers will be lost unless Leaving Cert results are issued before August 31st,” Mr Ó Laoghaire said.

Mr McHugh has spoken to the British education secretary, and the Department of Education secretary general had been in touch with his British counterpart.

He said “this is something we need to find a solution to.”

Exam fee

Mr McHugh also announced that the deadline for the €116 Leaving Cert exam fee will be extended from April 30th until after the exams are completed.

However, Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin called for the fee to be abolished entirely due to the financial pressure facing many families this year.

“Students shouldn’t be charged €116 for the privilege of sitting the exam this year, particularly given the financial circumstances many families in this country now find themselves in,” Mr O Ríordáin said.

Many Opposition TDs also raised the issue of stress and anxiety facing this year’s Junior and Leaving Cert exam students given what they described as an ongoing lack of clarity over aspects of the exams.

In response, Mr McHugh announced that plans are being finalised for a new system of mental health supports to help protect students’ wellbeing.

He said this outreach support will be delivered in conjunction with the Department of Health.

Mr McHugh also announced that thousands of parents will be provided with refunds for school transport, on the basis that it has not been available to children over recent weeks.

“I have decided that at the end of the school year when the exact impact in terms of numbers of weeks of school closure is known, a refund for that period of closure will be issued to parents,” he said.