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‘No justification for hybrid model’ – teaching union calls for traditional Leaving Cert to go ahead

Union reports teachers have complained about students disengaging ‘because of an expectation that they will not have to sit examinations’


Teachers say there is “no justification” for offering a hybrid Leaving Cert this year, as they called for 2022 exams to go ahead in the traditional format.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) said it will not support a 2021-style Leaving Cert given schools have remained open throughout this academic year.

It said teachers have complained about students disengaging “because of an expectation that they will not have to sit examinations”.

“The current circumstances are radically different from previous years and there is no justification for offering additional options to students. On that basis, the TUI will not support any other options,” the TUI said.

It comes as the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) confirmed it is seeking a hybrid approach, giving students a choice of exams and accredited grades, or both.

The NAPD call adds to mounting pressure on Education Minister Norma Foley to rethink Leaving Cert 2022 following unprecedented Covid transmission.

Principals are grappling with the daily realities of lost tuition time being experienced by Leaving Cert candidates.

Both Labour and Sinn Féin have also called for a hybrid Leaving Cert this year.

Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the virus would “continue to impact day-to-day learning and a hybrid system of written exams and calculated grades will be needed again”.

Sinn Féin education spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said: “Students should have the option to have an accredited grade or a model of that kind in a subject, or in several subjects.”

However, the TUI - which represents thousands of secondary school teachers - criticised political parties for such contributions, describing them as “unhelpful”.

The TUI said it cooperated with the standardisation exam process in 2020 and 2021 “on the basis of absolute necessity”.

Despite schools being faced with obvious challenges due to infections and close contact requirements, it said experts were indicating that case numbers will fall in the coming weeks.

“The standardisation process was vitally important in the last two years, but cannot be replicated this year because more than half of students in some schools have no junior cycle data,” the union said.

"Advocates for a repeat of the emergency methods are therefore advocating for something that is either impossible or else will be radically changed and involve historical school data that would be hugely unfair for many students.”

Meanwhile, NAPD director Paul Crone said secondary students had suffered the most interruption to their education as a result of the pandemic.

“They lost a good chunk of fifth year with the closures in 2021 and now they are impacted by teacher supply,” said Mr Crone.

“We are calling for consultations with stakeholders to ensure that these students are not disadvantaged.

“There needs to be significant negotiations and the student voice needs to be at the centre of this. That is our clear message.”

The association represents leaders of more than 700 post-primary schools and Mr Crone said an informal survey on Thursday and Friday indicated that 20pc teachers and 40pc of students were missing.

Similarly high levels of student and teacher absences may continue for some weeks, until the surge of the Omicron variant of Covid passes.

The Department of Education and schools are pulling out all the stops to find substitute cover for absent teachers and, where classes are being asked to stay at home, Leaving Cert pupils are prioritised for in-school teaching.

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