Next year’s Leaving Cert students ‘need latitude’ after school closures

Teacher unions say greater flexibility and ‘common sense approach’ needed

‘It could mean giving students more options in the exam and not making every aspect of the exam compulsory.’ Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

‘It could mean giving students more options in the exam and not making every aspect of the exam compulsory.’ Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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Education authorities are being urged to give next year’s Leaving Cert students a greater choice of questions in the exams to help make up for lost teaching time.

Teachers’ unions have warned some schools will struggle to complete the curriculum by the end of next year due to school closures and say students should be given greater flexibility in light of this.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), the State’s advisory body on the curriculum, is examining Leaving Cert subjects to identify whether changes may be needed in light of disruption caused by Covid-19.

Séamus Laharte, president of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, said a “common sense” solution involved providing more flexibility for students at exam time.

“Sixth year is going to be a crammed year with mocks, orals, aurals and second components in 25 subjects. If a school is behind on the curriculum, it will put students under added pressure,” Mr Laharte said.

“Teachers have worked hard to keep education going, there have been inevitable constraints and completing the full curriculum may be too big an ask this year.

“The common-sense approach is to give students’ more latitude in the exams on the understanding that everyone will have, for example, 80 per cent of the curriculum covered. That could mean giving students more options in the exam and not making every aspect of the exam compulsory.”

Robust exams

Deirdre McDonald, Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) president, said next year’s Leaving Cert exams should be tailored by taking into account students’ learning experiences, while ensuring the exams are as robust as ever.

“This work needs to be completed well in advance of the commencement of the next school year. It must also be flexible and take into account the conditions, as yet unknown, under which the return to school happens,” she said.

The Irish Second Level Students’ Union supported calls for exams to be adapted to ensure students do not have the added pressures of having to catch up on months of missed coursework.

Union president Reuban Murray said mental health and career guidance would also be a key challenge for schools and called for funding for guidance counsellor posts to be fully restored.

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