Fine Gael Senator’s proposal to set aside 75 Cao points for extracurricular activities received unanimous support in the Seanad.
Senator for Cavan-Monaghan Joe O’Reilly, proposed to set aside 50 points for social and communal action and 25 points for cultural and sport achievement in a reformed Leaving Certificate Cycle to the Seanad and received unanimous agreement.
O’Reilly said communal action would include volunteer work with the elderly, the disabled and involvement in the Tidy Town’s competition whereas the cultural and sport achievement would include participation in drama, music, or an athletics club.
He told The College View that the overall goal is to also give students in underdeveloped or rural areas the same opportunities as students in private secondary level institutions.
“I want a leveller playing field between the private colleges and rural schools.”
He added that students involved in sports should be recognised for the time and effort they put into their team, especially as it can be a factor in keeping students away from substance abuse.
A teacher in a North Dublin secondary school, who wished to remain anonymous due to their school’s policy, said they recognise the importance O’Reilly’s intentions but doe not think that it’s practical.
They said that the proposal cheapened volunteer work, could place more pressure on students and could potentially further the divide between students in private schools and in rural or underdeveloped areas.
The reason being that students in rural or underdeveloped areas often spend their spare time working a part-time job and are unable to take part in extracurricular activity, they said.
However, fifth year student Phillip James O’Conaill at Scoil Chonglais Baltinglass, Wicklow said he hopes the possible change could bring a school’s attention towards volunteer and creative work.
“If there was a part of the leaving certificate where students get points for doing volunteer or creative work it could really help people and do a lot of good.”
The Department of Education and Skills spokesperson said the current senior cycle is under review and told O’Reilly that his proposal would be considered in this review, but it is still uncertain if or when changes will be made. However, O’Reilly remained positive and said there is a great chance it will go through.
When asked what other changes he would wanted for the senior cycle he said, “I believe in the current examination system and distribution of the point system, so I wouldn’t revolutionise the system.”