Thursday 22 August 2019

Education Minister denies new Leaving Cert undermines system: 'We're moving away from concept of failure'

Education minister Joe McHugh. Photo: Frank McGrath
Education minister Joe McHugh. Photo: Frank McGrath

Evie Kearney

Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh has denied that the change in awarded Leaving Certificate points has undermined the system.

A record number sat higher level papers this year with students likely attracted by changes in the grading system in 2017 allowing candidates who achieve between 30pc-39pc at higher level to earn CAO points.

But Minister McHugh has said the changes did not undermine the system, but instead sought to move away from the concept of failure in the Leaving Certificate.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One's Morning Ireland, the minister said he wanted to focus on flexibility within the system for students who do not aspire to high marks.

"There was a very rigid and harsh treatment of the failure rate in times gone by where if you got 40 you passed, if you got 39 you were deemed a failure, so we’re moving away from that concept of failure to try to encourage, to try to incentivise," he said.

A number of significant changes were introduced for the exams this year to relieve pressure on students, including the introduction of a second sitting of the Leaving Certificate in July for young people who had lost family members during the exams.

Minister McHugh attributed the change to Rhona Butler, who campaigned for the bereavement scheme after her mother passed away mid-way through her exams last year.

Another major change saw results released a day earlier than usual this year to facilitate the new appeals system which will now be complete by mid-September after Rebecca Carter won a High Court case last year when she was unable to take up her place in UCD due to incorrect marking.

The minister said the two young women contributed to the "enormous change" and he would continue to work closely with students to further develop the system.

"There are two examples of young people voices being listened to and we've to ensure that we continue to work and listen very attentively to what the needs of the young people are," he said.

Minister McHugh said he also wanted to remind those receiving their results today that there are many alternative options, such as post-Leaving Certificate courses and apprenticeships, available around the country. 

"Young people will be getting results today where their expectations will not be met and they will be saying 'what do I do next?', but there will be other options available for particular stepping stones.

"Within the Leaving Cert there is this flexibility for students who don’t aspire to those high achievement marks that some people are reaching this morning," he added.

Minister McHugh also offered his condolences to Leaving Certificate students who passed away before collecting their results.

Galway teen Jessica Moore died tragically on Monday morning after falling ill at her Debs ball.

Waterford teenager Jack McGrath (18) lost his life after a crash near Midleton in Cork in the early hours of Saturday morning.

"My thoughts are with a number of young Leaving Cert students who are due to collect their examination papers this morning and won’t be and also other young people who lost family members along the way," he said.

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