Foley ‘absolutely committed’ to Leaving Cert going ahead in 2021 ‘as normally as possible’

Minister for Education confirms independent review of calculated grades process will take place

Minister for Education Norma Foley said there would be no change to the length of exams in Leaving Cert. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Minister for Education Norma Foley said there would be no change to the length of exams in Leaving Cert. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Minister for Education Norma Foley has stopped short of giving a guarantee that the Leaving Certificate and Junior Cycle exams will go ahead in 2021.

Ms Foley said she was “absolutely committed” to ensuring the State exams of 2021 “will operate as normally as possible subject obviously to the prevailing public health advice at that time”.

Independent TD Denis Naughten expressed concern, however, at the Minister’s “caveat” about public health advice, and said the class of 2021 was worried that they were going to be “messed about”.

In the wake of the move to a calculated grades system following the cancellation of the 2020 Leaving Cert exams, the Minister stressed that there is “an absolute commitment from Government” that schools would remain open.

She said the Government was in ongoing contact with public health authorities and that it is a particularly strong shared objective with the partners in education that the exams would take place.

However, Mr Naughten said: “I am concerned at the caveat on public health advice”.

Raising the issue during Dáil education question time, the Galway-Roscommon TD said: “We are 230 days away from the first English paper in the Leaving Cert and we need assurance that the exam itself will take place and that students will not have to worry about standardisation”.

He acknowledged that a “tremendous amount of work has been done to ensure schools did open and remain open”.

But he called for assurance that there will be an exam in 2021.

Ms Foley reiterated that she was “absolutely committed” to keeping the schools open and that it was a shared objective with the partners in education that the exams should proceed.

“We are moving in that direction,” she said adding that work had been ongoing and in the arrangements for next year’s exams they would take account of the disrupted learning experience of past year.

Accommodation would be made “as a contingency measure” for any gaps for the 2020/2021 year.

The familiar overall structure will be maintained “while incorporating additional choice”

The Minister said there will be no change to the length of the written exams.

“Project briefs for relevant subjects will issue earlier than usual and practical course work will be submitted two weeks earlier than normal, also as a contingency measure.”

Ms Foley also confirmed that an independent review of the calculated grades controversy will take place.

This follows the revelation of two errors in the process that resulted in more than 462 students receiving revived CAO course offers and 6,000 grade upgrades.

Ms Foley announced earlier this month that she had asked for a “comprehensive independent review of the design and implementation of the calculated grades process take place when the process is complete”.

She told Labour education spokesman Aodhán Ó Riordáin the review will include international expertise and she wants it to consider key aspects of the calculated grades process including the initial decision to adopt the model, whether it met its objectives, its effectiveness and how the process worked in terms of design and implementation.

Ms Foley said the review would also include effectiveness of the governance and oversight procedures and the lessons that can be learned.

“It is my intention that the review will be an independent, expert review and that there will be an international element to it given the expertise required in this field,”she said.