ISSU calls for clarity on future of 2021 State Exams

Matthew Joyce

The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU) has called for “certain clarity” on what will happen with the Leaving Cert exams in 2021.

The ISSU also described the amount of anxiety put on exam-year students as “unnecessary and unsustainable”.

The comments were made by ISSU President Reuban Murray, during a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. Murray also said there has not been enough clarity on the fate of the 2021 Leaving Cert exams.

ISSU Education Officer, Alicia O’Sullivan, has said that the perspective they are getting from the Department of Education is that “the traditional Leaving Cert will go ahead, with contingencies”.

However, O’Sullivan added that “given the current climate, you can never say never about anything”.

She said that once the exams are safe for students, “we have no objections”, but that “it needs to be very clear very soon what students will be facing practically and safety-wise”.

Speaking about the changes to layouts of the examination papers next year, O’Sullivan said that “it is adding workload to a degree” and “more definite changes” were needed to take the workload off, as “you don’t want to disadvantage others”.

In a submission before Murray appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee, the ISSU said there was “serious confusion, anxiety and frustration” among students, and questioned why schools were being treated differently from other sectors of society.

However, O’Sullivan has said that communication between the ISSU and other education bodies “has been as good as can be” and that “student voices have never been more prominent”.

O’Sullivan emphasised that “students are being listened to” and that “there will be a fair Leaving Cert” while precautions will be in place for those who are self-isolating or are immuno-compromised.

She said there are 37 regional officers within the ISSU who regularly communicate with student councils, and will continue to do so, adding that she is currently establishing an “education working group” for the purposes of the 2021 exams and future senior cycle reform.

When asked what contingencies are being developed, O’Sullivan said “nothing is set in stone” and that they will be developed “over the next few months”.

Looking to the future, she advised students to look into “Plan Bs and Plan Cs”, adding there is “nothing wrong or shameful” about doing a Post-Leaving Cert Course (PLC).

Minister for Education Norma Foley has previously said that she is “absolutely committed” to ensuring State exams run in 2021, but has stopped short of a guarantee.

Minister Foley said that the familiar structure of the exams will be maintained “while incorporating additional choice”.

Matthew Joyce 

Image Credit: flickr