Students are crying out for certainty… here is everything we know so far about Leaving Cert 2021
The country’s 63,00 Leaving Cert students are crying out for certainty and want the choice between traditional exams and a form of ‘calculated grades’.
Talks on delivering a twin-track approach to assessment have been going on between the Department of Education and education partners, such as teacher unions, students and school management bodies, for almost a fortnight now.
Education Minister Norma Foley is briefing Taoiseach Micheál Martin and other senior ministers today on the emerging shape of Leaving Cert 2021, but there is a long way to go to finalising agreement on all elements.
Here is everything we know so far:
Students will have options around a modified version of last years’ ‘calculated grades’ and traditional exams.
The Leaving Cert written exams are scheduled to start on June 9 and, while they will be subject to public health advice, the working assumption is that they will go ahead. Some students may choose not to sit the written papers.
The Junior Cycle written exams are expected to be cancelled to create more capacity in schools to allow for comfortable social distancing for 63,000 Leaving Cert candidates as well as supervisors.
As well as the Leaving Cert written exams, components such as oral exams and practical exams are extremely important but the education partners have struggled to reach consensus on how they can be run at a time of strict social distancing. In the run up today’s meeting difficulties agreeing arrangements for orals and practicals were still dominating the discussions.
About half of subjects have second components such as orals, practicals, or projects and some have three. Many students shine more in these elements of the exams than in the written papers and all sides agree that it is essential that these skills and competences are properly recognised in the assessment process.
However, Covid-related public health rules present a challenge to running them and, while various options were explored, the talks were also forced to consider an alternative way of recognising student achievement in these areas.5. Flexibility
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) also wants schools to have flexibility about whether to run the classroom-based assessments (CBAS), which are part of the overall Junior Cycle assessment process. If Junior Cycle CBAs did not have to run, it would free up school facilities, such as labs or kitchens, to allow more to Leaving Cert students to complete exam-related projects.
The focus on the Leaving Cert oral exams and practical exams means there hasn’t been a lot discussion on the detail of how calculated grades would work in practice, so the negotiations will continue beyond today.
Teacher assessments of students would be at the root of the ‘calculated grades’ process but exactly how that would work or when the results would be provided to students has not been agreed.
Teacher unions have been very clear that they will not cooperate with ranking Leaving Cert students for a ‘calculated grades’ process in the way they did last year.