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Principals say ‘time is now’ for Leaving Cert reform


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School principals will put pressure on Education Minister Norma Foley today to speed up changes to the Leaving Cert.

The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) is concerned with the pace at which proposed reform is happening, particularly in light of the experience of Covid.

NAPD president Rachel O’Connor said: “We cannot allow another academic year to slip past without progress and delivery. The time for action is now,”

The NAPD is also urging that the voice of second-level students, who were a key force in driving radical changes to assessment in the past two years, continue to be heard in the discussions on longer-term reform.

Yesterday, Oireachtas Education Committee chair Paul Kehoe said he was “disappointed” that changes to senior cycle were not higher up the Ms Foley’s priority list.

Ms Foley is considering a National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) report on changes to both curriculum and assessment at senior cycle, including a move to less focus on terminal exams.

Principals will express their concerns about the need for urgency to Ms Foley today at the NAPD annual conference.

Speaking ahead of the event, NAPD director Paul Crone said “the case for reform has never been greater”.

Ms O’Connor said that over the past 18 months, the post-primary sector had demonstrated great adaptability.

“We have learned it is possible for our excellent teachers to assess their students, that entry to third-level must be decoupled from terminal exam results and that students’ anxiety and stress were significantly reduced when they had options,” she said.

She added that at every stage since Covid first disrupted education, students’ voices were heard and “the NAPD advocates strongly for students to continue to be given a stronger say in their learning and assessment”.

Ms O’Connor said the greatest outcome of the past 18 months was the student-focussed collaboration between education partners, which “must be carried forward and repeated to now deliver broader, permanent reform”.

Ms O’Connor referred to 2018 NAPD research that found 83pc of students believed that the Leaving Cert exam in its traditional form was “not the best way to assess” their educational achievement, 55pc of parents were in favour of their children being assessed by their teacher and 65pc of teachers were in favour of comprehensive reform of the Leaving Cert. She added that “the reform agenda has gathered further momentum in light of the pandemic”.

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