Students union launches survey as support grows for ‘hybrid’ Leaving Cert

Matthew Joyce

Since the last issue of The College View was released before Christmas, a lot has changed. As a result, a new campaign has started to change the way the state examinations are conducted, for the third year in a row.

Education officials have been preparing to run the state exams in a pre-Covid format, with the usual written, oral and aural tests. 

However, this has changed since the decision was made in early January to reopen schools despite calls for a phased reopening due to the risk from the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Opposition parties, such as Sinn Féin and Labour, as well as the Irish Second Level Students Union (ISSU), have now called for a ‘hybrid’ Leaving Cert for 2022, similar to last year’s system of exams or accredited grades.

This began when the ISSU launched a survey of secondary school students to get their thoughts on reopening schools and the way to conduct the state exams.

The survey results show 68% of Leaving Cert students, along with 63% of Junior Cert students, support the proposed ‘hybrid’ model. 

The survey, which closed a week ago, received nearly 41,000 responses. 

ISSU uachtarán Emer Neville said it was “abundantly clear” that students prefer a hybrid model to the traditional model used before the pandemic began. 

Ms. Neville has previously called the current plans for the exams a “complete disregard for students’ best interests”.

“There is no online tuition provided to those isolating, and students have missed class time throughout 2021 and 2020, as a result of school closures,” Ms. Neville said, adding that “there is no way we can stand over assessing these students with the traditional Leaving Certificate”.

“There is no online tuition provided to those isolating, and students have missed class time throughout 2021 and 2020 as a result of school closures,” Ms. Neville said.

On the other hand, the two main secondary teachers unions, the TUI and ASTI, have said they favour the standard pre-pandemic format.

They argue the accredited grading model would not be viable this year, as there is no Junior Cert data for those who would have sat it in 2020, and skipped Transition Year.

Recently, there has been some movement on the debate for the ‘hybrid’ model, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin saying they are “not ruling it out entirely” on last Friday’s edition of RTE’s The Late Late Show.

He said a decision will be made in the next two to three weeks, but said students sitting the exam this year would see a “wider choice” of questions on the paper, due to the disruption in learning they have experienced.

In a statement, the State Examinations Commission, who runs the written, oral and aural exams, said it was “advancing all preparations” for the state exams in June. 

It said adjustments are intended to “provide clarity, certainty and reassurance to students, their parents/guardians, teachers and schools about the format and structure of this year’s examinations”.

Matthew Joyce

Image Credit: Irish Examiner

*This article was due for publication on the 11th of January but delayed due to a fault with our site*