WITH attendance at classes in schools for Leaving Certificate students unlikely to be allowed until at least after the mid-term at the end of February, it is now time for Minister for Education Norma Foley to make a call on what form the end of second level exams will take in 2021. So much valuable time in the classroom has been lost already this year and remote learning is no proper substitute for it; some students without access to the necessary technology are at an even greater disadvantage.
Going into early February, before the mid-term break, the ‘mock’ Leaving Cert exams would give students an idea of where they stood academically and they are not likely to happen, as they did last year, so students are in a worse situation than they were this time 12 months ago.
Ongoing restrictions will also affect the holding of some facets of the Leaving Cert examinations, such as oral and practical tests, so it is difficult to fathom why the Minister has been so gung-ho about wanting to hold the ‘traditional’ Leaving Cert written exams as usual in June; it was the rock her predecessor, Joe McHugh (remember him) perished on.
In the absence of long-promised substantive reform of the Leaving Cert, sitting the exams in June would be the best case scenario, but it is difficult now to see how this could be achieved with the Covid-19 virus and its new strains racing well ahead of the vaccination programme. The country is in a far worse situation now than it was in the early months of the first lockdown last March-April, when the key decisions were taken about the 2020 Leaving Cert, but dragging out a decision about this year’s exams until Easter would be unfair on students.
It’s time to do away with all this uncertainty now and roll out Plan B for Leaving Certificate 2021.