The Leaving Cert – back to normal?


Sir, – Jennifer O’Connell writes that “after two summers free of the traditional Leaving Cert there will be little appetite to go back to it. The fact that just 2 per cent of students have opted to sit written exams only shows what they think of the tough but fair system” (“‘Back to normal by August’? No thanks”, Opinion & Analysis, May 8th).

Really? The 2 per cent refers to those opting only for the written exams. The other 98 per cent of students have opted to sit the exams and also asked to be assessed by their teachers.

Why not? They can have two bites of the cherry while sitting only one exam. They get to choose the better result. A very intelligent choice.

To me, the dual-choice of the majority proves that the students are well aware from the evidence of last year that it is much easier to get high grades when the exams are not assessed anonymously and with a common standard throughout the country. Last year, the State Examinations Commission had to make drastic adjustments to some school-marking because it was so outrageously unbalanced.

In my experience, most students prefer to be confident that they, and everyone else, will be judged fairly and that who you know will not count. For years, teachers themselves have also supported this principle and opposed teacher assessment. Last year saw concrete proof of their wisdom. – Yours, etc,


(Former General

Manager, CAO ),



Sir, – Many of Jennifer O’Connell’s aspirations for how society might improve following the lessons of the pandemic are laudable and I have no problems supporting her wish not to return to the “old normal”.

However, her assertion that we have had “two summers free of the traditional Leaving Cert” is one that I cannot in all conscience let pass.

While it may well have been the only feasible option, what has in effect happened is that many of this year’s Leaving Certificate students will be doubly tested. The last few weeks of school have been focused largely on class tests so that the teachers have material upon which to base the “accredited grades” they must produce.

The Leaving Certificate examination timetable is going ahead as normal, albeit with amended papers and some shortened exams.

Don’t think for a second that this is taking any of the pressure out of this year’s Leaving Certificate for the students involved.

Quoting the fact that just 2 per cent of students have opted to sit only written exams this year completely misses that 87 per cent of the candidates have taken the “advice” to do both accredited grades and written exams in some or all subjects. What was touted as the best of both worlds in terms of the prospects for getting good results must also be acknowledged as the worst of both worlds in terms of the psychological pressure on the students.

This year’s workaround is the absolute apogee of what is wrong with the current Leaving Certificate and third-level entry system, which relies wholly on a set of results that can be converted into a points score and completely cuts the individual student out of the equation.

I can only hope against hope that there is real appetite for radical change by Government, schools and third-level institutions. – Yours, etc,


The Rower,

Co Kilkenny.