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Leaving cert is gone - but the nightmare for schools is not

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It will be controversial but what other realistic options are there? Stock Image Photo: Garry O'Neill

It will be controversial but what other realistic options are there? Stock Image Photo: Garry O'Neill

It will be controversial but what other realistic options are there? Stock Image Photo: Garry O'Neill

Education Minister Joe McHugh faced close but mostly courteous questioning in the Dáil yesterday over his decision to postpone the Leaving Cert and introduce calculated grades instead of the written exam.

He defended the decision, saying there was compelling evidence for taking it.

His department's website has just published a detailed presentation about the Leaving Cert which was given to a stakeholders' advisory group on May 1.

The presentation has been described as "sobering" as it set out what would have been needed to run the exams with any hope of success.

It's clear that the logistics would have been very challenging.

The phrase "military precision" was used to describe the queuing systems and movement patterns that would have to be worked out in advance, the two-metre distances marked out in the yard or around the school perimeter, and the mapping out of the routes to the exam centres.

A maximum of 10 exam candidates would have been allowed per classroom and 40 at most in a gym. Superintendents would have to be provided with PPE, and in the Dáil the minister said students might have had to use masks and gloves.

Regular routine sanitising and cleaning would be required throughout the examination period to ensure that the venues were sanitary. The official presentation ruled out attendance by anyone at risk of Covid-19.

This might have required daily health self-declaration, temperature checks or other testing. Hardly arrangements to make students feel at ease for the most important exam of their lives.

Before the Dáil session yesterday, the minister attended a meeting of the advisory group which is made up of representatives of parents, students, teachers, managers, principals and education agencies.

Up to 200 questions and issues were raised about the calculated grade system but it will be next week before teachers are given detailed guidelines on how it will work.

It will be controversial but what other realistic options are there, especially for those who want to go to college?

Dr Alan Wall, CEO of the Higher Education Authority, who attends the advisory group as an observer, has shot down ideas such as a matriculation exam, aptitude-type test and interviews, saying that they would face the same issues as the Leaving Cert with regard to organisation, social distancing, health and wellbeing risks.

Calculated grades it is then, but it was left to Labour's Aodhán Ó Ríordáin to ask the obvious question in the Dáil.

If the Leaving Cert can't be held in July and August, how are we going to reopen 4,000 schools in September?

If we add in higher education institutions, we are talking about 1.2 million full-time students and more than 100,000 staff.

The education nightmare is not over yet.

Irish Independent