Leaving Cert students who suffer bereavement can defer exams

Students to be given option to be absent from exams and offered alternative exams in July

The idea emerged following a meeting between student Rhona Butler, who lost her mother during the exams  last year, and the Minister for Education Joe McHugh. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

The idea emerged following a meeting between student Rhona Butler, who lost her mother during the exams last year, and the Minister for Education Joe McHugh. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Leaving Cert pupils who suffer bereavement of close relatives during next month’s exams will be able to sit alternative papers in July.

The new move follows long-standing criticism over the existing system which offered little accommodation for bereaved students.

The decision follows a review in January into how students are supported in the wake of the death of a close family member during the state exams.

The interim measures are being announced today on a pilot basis and represent an important enhancement to the existing provisions.

The scheme will allow a student to be absent from exams for a three-day period during the June written State exams timetable.

The three-day period will commence from the date of the death of a close relative up to and including the day after the funeral.

This is intended to allow bereaved candidates time free from Leaving Cert exams to prepare for and attend the funeral of their loved one.

The measures will apply in cases where the death of the close relative occurs during exam time, or in the two days prior to the exams commencing on 5th June.

The scheme defines a close relative as a father, step-father, mother, step-mother, legal guardian, brother, step-brother, half-brother, sister, step-sister, half-sister, grandfather or grandmother.

It also provides for the death of a son or daughter, wife or husband or civil partner of a Leaving Cert candidate.

The alternative sittings will take place over five days - Monday 8th July - Friday 12th July, 2019. The exam centre will be in Athlone this year.

The scheme is being introduced on a pilot basis and will be reviewed following this year’s exams.

A student who suffers a bereavement and who wishes to take particular exams during the alternative July sittings cannot also sit those same exams during the original June sittings.

The results from the alternative Leaving Certificate examinations will be available at the same time as the main exams results, on 13th August in 2019.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh said he had called for the review of this issue after hearing an interview with student Rhona Butler, who lost her mother during the exam period last year.

“I want to thank Rhona again for highlighting this issue and demonstrating how we should look after and support students who have suffered a loss,” he said.

“The death of a loved one is a deeply traumatic event for any young person, which will only be compounded if it occurs in the midst of exams.”

Mr McHugh said education authorities had a duty to take reasonable measures to support young people who suffer loss at such an important time for them.

“My hope is that the new initiative will go a small way to easing the burden and stress of bereavement and giving students space to focus on their family,” he said.