Even in normal times the Leaving Cert is a stressful time for tens of thousands of candidates. For this year’s students, the challenge is greater. They have had to deal with anxiety over school closures, changes to assessment plans and a dramatic government U-turn on holding exams “by hook or by crook”.
This week students discovered that their calculated grades will be delayed by three weeks. The turnaround time between the results coming out, CAO offers being made and college starting is extremely short, which heaps yet more pressure on students’ shoulders. Many say they feel like they have been plunged into fresh uncertainty over when college is due to start, how they will find accommodation at short notice and whether their results will issue in time for those seeking to go to college abroad.
There is also understandable disappointment and frustration at the way the news emerged in the first place. Minister for Education Norma Foley did not tell the Dáil of the dates when she was being questioned by Opposition parties on Thursday evening. Nor were students' representatives informed of the delay to the results. Yet, the previous day, senior figures in higher education had been confidentially briefed on the planned dates. Official confirmation came only when word leaked to the media.
Foley said the delay in issuing results is linked to efforts to ensure this year’s Leaving Cert results are fair, equitable and as accurate as possible. She also said her priority was to inform key education partners first, in advance of making an official announcement.
This is a complex process and it’s important to get it right. However, it is also true that the handling of this year’s Leaving Cert has caused considerable distress to students and their families. The previous government seemed paralysed by indecision when it came to whether State exams could proceed. This latest announcement is another blow to students and will cause additional stress and difficulties for parents trying to support their children in uncertain times.