A Rush secondary school principal has spoken of her students' relief over the cancellation of this year's Leaving Certificate exams, and how the Minister for Education's decision on May 8 has finally ended weeks of speculation and uncertainty.
Welcoming the Minister's announcement, Ms Patricia Hayden, Principal at St Joseph's Secondary School in Rush, spoke recently of how the decision offered closure for her Leaving Cert students: 'I suppose it's a cancellation really, I know there's a postponement element but I think it's the only practical solution in a situation where it was interminable plans which may not have come to fruition, and the students had no guarantee that on the 29th of July that public health would have allowed them to have progress the exams.
'The situation was extremely stressful for the students, and actually the teachers have been really doing their best, nobody wanted to say look, we have to stop this at some point, because obviously it's such a high stakes exam.'
She said: 'The reality was, there's only so much you can keep doing when the students themselves were finding it so difficult to just keep going, and you'd have to ask yourself the problems that would have arisen in the practicalities of actually trying to hold the exams safely. I don't think it could have been done.'
Under the Minister's instructions, students will now receive 'calculated grades' while retaining the right to sit the Leaving Cert at a later date if they are unhappy with those grades.
Despite reservations expressed by educators, Ms Hayden welcomed 'calculated grades' as a method of assessing students' learning, which she said would finally allow them to 'move onto the next stage in their lives'.
She said: 'I think that this is the best thing that could have happened, I think this will bring an end and I think about 80% of students will be very happy with this. They are very happy and we know that already, and there was relief all around.
'There will be a few students who have really, really worked and have a very fixed goal who will feel that they didn't get to run the race kind of thing, but I think calculated grades have allowed students to move to the next stage of their lives. It is a system that has a lot of checks and balances and it also allows a lot of freedom for students to appeal if necessary.'
The Rush principal concluded: 'We had an assembly for students yesterday, and they're relieved and their parents are relieved. The time-line is tight for us to turn everything around. There's a lot of data, when you put it all on a spreadsheet, I think we have 104 students and eight subjects it's a lot of data to compile, and I hope we will get more guidance from the department shortly in relation to the detail.'