If postponing the Leaving Cert until July or August represents certainty, then I would not like to see the definition of confusion.
This is a half-baked plan which, in the rush to give information to students, parents and teachers, has raised far more questions than it has answered. Few are asking those hard questions on this or anything else at the moment.
First of all, a plan should be based on the greatest amount of information possible. Nobody knows the most up-to-date statistics on Covid-19 because we are so far behind in testing.
Figures today are completely out of date, perhaps by up to two weeks. The only totally reliable figure is the number of dead. So we really don't know what the most recent trends are. And making decisions on a huge exam is a fraught business without reliable information.
From this vacuum the Department of Education rushed into a decision on Good Friday when it would have been better to wait and see how things developed over the next couple of weeks. And so the Leaving Cert was put back to July or August - which is it?
Why announce something half-baked when the passage of time could have made for a more reliable decision?
A lot of questions are now being raised. First, it appears from this announcement that school is likely to be out until later in the year. There will be some fun now trying to get students to engage in online learning - and good luck to parents with students at home.
The Junior cycle group have carte blanche to throw in the towel on their studies. We are promised exams for them in September.
Will school reopen then or will these tests run independently of a normal school day?
Who will supervise these exams if school is going on for all the other years?
What is going to happen in the month of June? Will teachers be on holiday then or will there be school?
The announcement is that there will be at least two weeks of school before the Leaving Cert is held, so if school resumes sometime in May we do not know whether teachers will have to give classes in June and July. Will all the years have class in June and July if restrictions lift?
Last week I wrote that the nuts and bolts of carrying out exams safely, and with their integrity guaranteed, should be left to individual school principals.
There could be plenty of local halls and GAA clubs commandeered for extra space, if need be. Now there is no information in that regard.
Then there is the correction of exams. Normally, after the Leaving Cert finishes, teachers mark the papers. They usually do so in July so results can be issued in August.
If exams take place in August that means teachers are going to be tied up marking papers in September - so what will happen to normal school opening?
Most schools would have been looking at coming back around August 26 or 27. That is all up in the air now.
It appears that the third-level sector has come on board in some shape or form. They have bought a pig in a poke, if that's the case. The same appears true of the main unions, the ASTI and TUI.
They are loath to rock the boat, but surely see that this is a recipe for continued confusion. They have not mentioned anything about teachers having a break as the exams and corrections are going to run into the new school year.
What is happening at the moment is certainly not a holiday for teachers and all would prefer to be back in class, instead of trying every trick to get work returned from big numbers of students who have decided to down tools. The compliance rate will fall further now.
One thing I do agree with the Education Minister on is that expected results from teachers could not be used for third-level purposes.
There is no objective system of that in Irish schools and this is not the time for such a radical departure. Plus, students would do nothing between now and the end of the school year, whenever that is, if their results were guaranteed now.
Joe McHugh obviously felt under pressure to make a decision. Why, I don't know. The best decision was none.
He now leaves students hanging on for another month with no certainty on the starting date.
Those same students would prefer earlier rather than later for their exams, so they could get back to living. Allowances could then be made in the marking for the lack of tuition time.
Another complete anomaly is that practicals and other types of project assessments will now take place sometime in May. Why could the same not have happened with oral exams?
The minister got very bad advice on that one and it was then compounded by giving everyone full marks. No equity there.
It does seem that the management bodies representing schools were brought on board with this decision. If that is the case then I am glad to be a dissenting voice, but I think a lot of principals will feel as I do.
Those involved in management are back in school by early August anyway, so having exams on is not particularly onerous from that point of view.
If he had waited for more information, McHugh could have made definite plans for dates of exams, marking, school holidays and so on.
If, by the beginning of May, he announced a postponement for a couple of weeks, with full plans in place, than we all could have lived with that.
At times like this we are all supposed to put on the jersey and accept everything but I would prefer to play for a team that knows where it is going.
It should not mean suspending our critical faculties. This is being made up as we go along and is not fair to anyone, most especially the Leaving Cert students.