Education and the pandemic


Sir, – Nick Folley (Letters, January 23rd) writes that children in Ireland have missed almost a whole school year due to Covid-19 lockdowns.

Schools in Ireland were closed initially from March 15th, 2020, to the end of the school year.

Allowing for Easter and various other holidays, primary pupils missed approximately 13 of the stipulated 36.5 weeks. At the time of writing schools are entering their fourth week of closure in 2021, with at least another two week of closure expected after that. Adding these two periods together would give a total of 19 weeks, or very slightly over half of a school year.

Yes, the children have missed a fair bit of school, but let’s get our maths right when adding it up. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.

A chara, – I was disappointed by the article in this weekend’s paper which contained the unqualified claim that “a report published this week by the Irish Secondary Students’ Union (ISSU) . . . found just 4 per cent of students supported holding a ‘traditional’ Leaving Cert this year” (“Further ‘possible options’ being explored for Leaving Cert 2021”, News, January 23rd).

Surely this statement should have been accompanied by a clarification that the poll on which that statement was based was circulated solely on social media, and was principally visible to people who followed the ISSU’s accounts; that, since that the ISSU made up its mind on cancelling the Leaving Certificate weeks ago, such people are overwhelmingly likely to be those who already support its views (in the “echo chamber” this paper has so often decried); and equally that the survey was online for just two days, meaning that, in the limited time available for it to be answered, only those who were supportive of the ISSU’s activities were likely to see it in time.

On top of that, the survey failed to obey the fundamental statistical principle of random sampling on which all accurate opinion polling is based (and which, incidentally, is covered in Leaving Cert maths).

All this is to ignore the fact the majority support for “a choice between calculated grades and written exams” was essentially the option to eat one’s cake and then, if one decided one didn’t like it, to have another one too. That is an option for which there would be majority support in any Leaving Certificate class, pandemic or not.

An unscientific poll that advances a preset agenda should not be the basis for any important governmental decision. As a member of the class of 2021, I sincerely hope it will not be. – Is mise,


Portobello, Dublin 8.

Sir, – Would it be too much to ask that teachers go easy on the homework? Spending hours in front of the screen for online classes and then more hours in front of a screen doing homework is a bit much. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 14.