Saturday 17 August 2019

Leaving Cert results spark surge in calls to Samaritans

Richard Bruton: Plans to prepare laws to tackle cyberbullying
Richard Bruton: Plans to prepare laws to tackle cyberbullying
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

The day before Leaving Cert results were released 2,266 callers rang the Samaritans, a fact that must ensure "pressure" is taken off students, Minister Richard Bruton said.

The charity, which launched its new phone deal to continue providing free calls for the next five years, has detailed how on August 16, 2017, it had one of its busiest days.

Mr Bruton, who is Communications Minister and former education minister, said: "There's a review of the Leaving Cert being undertaken by the Curriculum and Assessment Board.

"We can look back on the Junior Cycle which has introduced more broad-based assessment and less emphasis on the final exam, so hopefully that's something that will be possible in the Leaving Certificate as well."

Mr Bruton said many people had "great faith" in the fairness of the exam, meaning "we can't risk losing" that element.

But he added it should "take the pressure off students and allow them to perform to their best without that sort of pressure".

The charity is understood to take a high number of calls on cyberbullying - another issue Mr Bruton vowed to combat.

"I have committed we will prepare legislation for an online safety commissioner and one of the areas we will specifically be targeting is cyberbullying," he said.

"There's been some very tragic cases of cyberbullying and we believe the time for self-regulation by companies has now passed.

"We need a proper regulatory system and we are working to frame that legislation over the coming months."

Samaritans Ireland volunteers answered almost three million calls in the past five years on the freephone service.

The charity announced a new deal with BT Ireland, eir, Sky Ireland, Three Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland and Vodafone Ireland to continue assisting until 2024.

Teresa Bell, deputy regional director for the Samaritans Ireland, told the Irish Independent the deal was a "wonderful endorsement" of the service and it would allow callers to continue accessing the phone line for free.

Ms Bell, who still volunteers on the phone line, added: "The Leaving Cert is a very difficult time for young people and parents.

"But it's great that young people thinking about their future call Samaritans, along with parents, to discuss these concerns.

"People are worried about results, going to college, financial constraints, leaving home for college and it's really important that they get the chance to talk about their concerns and worries.

"We are happy to be there to be a listening ear."

If you are affected by any of these issues call Samaritans Ireland on freephone 116 123.

Irish Independent

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