Granted, it's flip-flop weather, but does the Education Minister really have to embrace flip-flopping with such enthusiasm that he applies it to policy- making?
First he postpones the Leaving Certificate until later in the summer, now he's changed his mind and is replacing it with predicted grades, dressed up as "calculated grades". A new name, but it still sounds like a flawed marking method.
Just over a week ago, Joe McHugh described predicted grades as "inherently biased". If they were unfair then, they remain unfair today. Tweaking, renaming, even adding extra steps - what's proposed is still a form of predicted grades. It does nothing to advance social inclusion - instead, to those who have much, more shall be given.
A wrong decision taken at the right time is said to be preferable to a right decision at the wrong time. But what of a wrong decision made at the wrong time? Yesterday's announcement follows a period of dithering, with students left in academic limbo for too long. It smacks of inept planning in his department and a minister bowing to pressure.
Mr McHugh says he received compelling advice that makes it impossible for pupils to return to school and sit exams. Frankly, it is difficult to believe a safe and socially distanced Leaving Cert is unworkable.
Exams are the least unjust way forward because they are marked anonymously. Diverting responsibility for grading pupils on to schools will give rise to problems because some bias is inevitable and mistakes will be made.
Let's start by testing for Covid-19 all 61,000 pupils who should take this exam. We are supposed to be capable of doing 100,000 tests a week so it's hardly beyond our capabilities. Those free of the virus can sit the exam, not in an auditorium - unnecessarily stressful venues, in any case - but using many smaller locations. Classrooms are free over the summer months, why not avail of them? Additional invigilators will be needed but no doubt people in the community would be happy to volunteer.
Pupils who test positive for the virus would have to sit their Leaving Cert in a room on their own. Does this penalise them for something beyond their control? Only if it's regarded as a disadvantage. Back in the day, I sat one of my A-level French papers alone due to a scheduling mix-up, and it was the most pleasant exam experience I've ever known, with no distractions. Plus, the smaller room was less intimidating compared with the school gym where I should have taken the test.
There have to be alternatives to calculated grades. Online exams via a timed entry system? Orals over Zoom or Skype? Where's the imaginative thinking?
Here's what we know about the system replacing the 2020 Leaving Cert. There are four layers: individual teachers allocate marks, subject teachers are involved, school principals sign off on them and statistics will be applied nationally to strive for a common standard. Students can appeal a grade but not enter into discussion with teachers. Obviously, fairness is an important consideration. But what's fairer than an anonymous exam?
The pandemic has hit some students harder than others in terms of exam preparation. Broadband coverage is not universal, nor is laptop ownership, and not everyone has a quiet space to study in. This digital divide means some students have been left stranded without access to online tuition, while those from more affluent homes, attending high-performing schools, have inbuilt advantages.
Neither teachers nor school departments can grade with absolute detachment. Exam papers, by comparison, pay no attention to a pupil's background. Exams aren't ideal but they give every student a fighting chance - some manage to rise to the occasion, despite patchy classroom engagement. A number of kids leave it until the 11th hour to cram and do surprisingly well despite substandard mocks.
Predicted grades have not been part of the Irish education firmament but are used in Britain, where students receive university offers based on them before sitting exams. They have a 16pc accuracy rate. That's right, in the overwhelming number of cases - eight-and-a-half instances out of 10 - predicted marks are proven wrong by the exams.
In three-quarters of cases, teachers think their students are going to earn a higher mark. Except where students from low-income homes are concerned, when they are more likely to be marked down -even if they are among the high-achievers.
This devastating research was conducted by Dr Gill Wyness of University College London (UCL), who says the use of predicted grades has been "widely criticised" among policy-makers. Yet a version of this so-called solution is the one chosen by the Department of Education, even though it undermines social inclusion and militates against pupils who already face greater challenges than their peers.
Talent is not distributed on the basis of social class or parental income. Talent is random. And it is a valuable commodity. So why are universities full of students from the highest socio-economic groups? Or, to put it another way, why aren't we availing of society's entire talent pool?
Clever kids from modest backgrounds face a multitude of hurdles if they are to reach third-level education. They are reliant on teachers to push them on; on parents giving them chances they never had; on their own resilience in negotiating a world largely alien to them.
I can say this with confidence because I was the first person in my extended family to reach university and the problem wasn't passing exams, it was knowing which institution to apply to, how to fit in there, what do to when I experienced difficulties, how to access supports.
Now, if I hadn't been lucky enough to pass exams reasonably well, for the most part, without the advantage of grinds or parental help with homework - none of which was possible - and if there hadn't been a grant, I never would have made it to university. And that would have impacted on my path in life. Not for the better. If I'd been relying on calculated grades to nudge me over the hurdles, I'd have been hamstrung, judging by the UCL research.
International research shows someone with a third-level education lives longer, earns a bigger salary and experiences less unemployment, for the most part. Governments also benefit because graduates pay higher rates of income tax, according to an OECD report. And if we educate people from all sorts of backgrounds, we encourage diversity.
Finally, extra places will be available at third-level institutions this autumn because foreign students will stay away. Why not take something positive from the pandemic and ring-fence those vacancies for bright students from lower socio-economic circumstances who haven't quite made the grade?
Third-level education is many wonderful things. But it is not inclusive. And abandoning the Leaving Cert this year may make it even less so.