The Leaving Cert – Plan B


Sir, – Reading Carl O’Brien’s piece (“Leaving Cert to be cancelled – but will ‘Plan B’ be fair to students?”, Analysis, May 7th), I was taken aback at the prospect of “school profiling” in predicting grades for the Leaving Certificate class of 2020 which will apparently involve an assessment of average exam results produced by individual schools.

This will obviously favour certain schools that receive additional funding.

To address the inherent and classist unfairness in this aspect of grade predicting, might it be time to introduce some “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies?

Such policies would prohibit the disclosure of the secondary school attended by a particular individual during university and job application processes.

The Leaving Certificate is supposed to be purely meritocratic, after all. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – A tried and tested exam is too difficult to stage.

Social distancing cannot be maintained in vast exam halls and empty schools, despite having an army of teachers available to supervise.

But teachers can predict grades. They know exactly how a student they haven’t seen since March will perform in an exam in August.

The financial caveat of “past performance can’t be taken as a guide to future returns” comes to mind.

Private, profit-driven schools won’t put pressure on teachers to maximise their students’ grades. Teachers of a friend’s children won’t be tempted to inflate grades, students who feel they’ve been downgraded won’t take legal action, and no one will take a legal challenge to the cancellation of exams in August when, according to the roadmap, creches, pubs, restaurants, hotels, will all be open.

Despite having lectured, set and corrected exams at third level for eight years, I couldn’t then and cannot now predict grades, but I do predict a winter of discontent for the Department of Education and a bonanza for the legal profession. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 8.

A chara, – Now that the 2020 Leaving Cert exams are cancelled but still going ahead, should we do a similar transformation of the Irish Open golf championship, originally due to take place at the end of this month.

This year we might use a predicted scorecard for each golfer based on their performance over the past 12 months and adjusted by feedback from their caddy as to their current expected best-round score.

Any golf professionals who object and who live within 5km of Mount Juliet should be allowed to play one round. – Is mise,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – The “national standardised system” proposed, along with an in-built principle of natural justice whereby a student has an option of sitting a written exam if unhappy with grades allotted, is a good compromise under these extraordinary circumstances, and they are extraordinary.

The renowned political philosopher John Rawls claimed there is no single social justice model that covers all angles. It seems as if it is always a battle between attending to the greatest good of the greatest number (the utilitarian philosophy of maximising the average advantage) and tending to the most disadvantaged ( a bit like liberation theology’s preferential option for the poor). Both can’t be fully done at the same time – someone always falls by the wayside. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

Sir, – Please remember, Leaving Cert students of 2020, regardless of the outcome, you are an utterly essential part of the future of this world.

You will be caring for our sick in hospitals. You will be building our hospitals. You will be bringing our food to our supermarkets. You will be maintaining our transport networks. You will be teaching our children. You will be caring for our pets. You will be writing the stories and bringing us the news. There is a part in the future for every one of you. Every one of you is essential. – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.