THE Leaving Certificate exams, as planned, should not go ahead, according to Skibbereen’s Alicia O’Sullivan.
Alicia, who is the education officer with the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU), believes this is ‘the most difficult year for students.’
She said they are stressed out about their safety, the spike in the number of Covid-19 cases, the closure of schools, and the Department of Education’s lack of clarity.
‘One day the Department is saying it is safe to go to school, and the next they say it is not,’ said Alicia who, together with other representatives of the ISSU, will be meeting with the Department of Education on Friday. The following day, Saturday, January 16th, there will be a town hall-style meeting – for which students will have to register – to give them a platform to air their views.
‘It will also help us to articulate what the students want in our discussions with the department,’ she added.
The union body is currently conducting a survey to gauge the views of secondary school students, and, so far, they have received about 20,000 responses.
The survey asks: What should happen in relation to school closures? Should they go back in February? What is their experience of online learning? And what they think should happen with the State exams, and whether they should go ahead or not.
In addition to the meeting on Friday, the union will be seeking ‘a broader meeting with the Department of Education – one that would include all the education stakeholders, such as parents’ councils and the teachers’ unions.’ Alicia said: ‘Leaving Certificate students need face-to-face learning and they are not getting that.’ The UCC law student empathised with them, saying: ‘Students don’t feel safe.’
She cited Skibbereen Community School as one example. ‘Here, there are 900-plus students, yet you can’t meet one person outside your household. That’s very difficult to understand.’
Local TD Holly Cairns (SD), was also critical of ‘the unnecessary confusion for students, families, and staff around the indecision and U-turns in relation to schools reopening.’