Pupils, teachers concerned they will not finish curriculum due to lockdown

More questions needed on State exams to aid pupils who missed school, committee hears

Teachers groups have said more accommodation is needed in State exams for students who missed class time due to Covid restrictions. File Photograph: Peter Thursfield

Teachers groups have said more accommodation is needed in State exams for students who missed class time due to Covid restrictions. File Photograph: Peter Thursfield

 

There are “major concerns” that students and teachers in exam years will be unable to complete the curriculum due to time lost during the initial Covid-19 lockdown, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Politicians were also told that there was a need to increase the number of questions on this year’s State exams, in order to cater for students who had to miss class time due to the pandemic.

Speaking at a meeting of the Oireachtas committee on education, Mai Fanning, chief executive of the Parents’ Council Post Primary, said an ongoing survey of parents has highlighted concerns about the workload for those in exam years.

“Parents with students of State exam years reported being particularly worried about their children not being able to catch up, with 30 per cent expressing real difficulty in recovering following close down,” she said.

“Major concerns around the inability of teachers and students to cover the whole curriculum have been expressed. These issues must be addressed to ensure minimum interruption to the 2021 exams.”

Reuben Murray, president of the Irish Secondary Schools Students’ Union, said there was a need to “make sure exams are fair, equal and safe”. He added that it needed to be safe both in terms of students’ physical and mental health.

“With the exams forthcoming, we need to look at how we can cater to students more because what’s coming forward to us, and it’s coming to other stakeholders as well, is that there needs to be more choice on the exams,” he said.

“We have students who have missed 14 days self-isolation, but also those three months as well. What’s key to add in here is orals and practicals; if you miss two weeks and you’ve a practical, that’s a massive amount of time. Those final four or five weeks when you have a project, that’s when you really get it done and get it out.”

Mr Murray also expressed concern about “over assessment” of students which, he said, will result in student burnout.

He said that teachers are continuously examining students in the event calculated grades are necessary again in 2021, but this is increasing stress and anxiety for students.

The representatives called for clarity on what contingency measures are in place, or will be in place, for the 2021 State exams, in the event that Covid-19 has an impact on the planned traditional exams.

Speaking at the same meeting, Aine Lynch, chief executive of the national parents’ council primary, said the vast majority of primary students and parents are happy with the reopening of schools.

However, Ms Lynch did state that some parents have expressed dissatisfaction with the adherence to social distancing rules on school transport.

Ms Lynch also reported concerns that some parents are congregating at school gates and not abiding by social distancing or wearing face coverings.