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Exam decision will bring its own challenges

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Swords Loreto principal, Peter McNamara.

Swords Loreto principal, Peter McNamara.

Swords Loreto principal, Peter McNamara.

The cancellation of this year's Leaving Certificate exams, as announced by Minister for Education Joe McHugh on May 8, offers some clarity for students nationwide, but as one Fingal school principal explained, the Department's new plans will pose its own set of challenges.

With the cancellation of this year's exams which were previiously due to begin on July 29, students will now receive calculated grades for subjects with an option retained to sit the exam at a future date, pending public health advice.

Mr Peter McNamara, Principal at Swords Loreto, gave his reaction to the Department's decision and for the application of 'calculated grades': 'It's a challenge for us all - we will work as a school team and it will be a school judgement. This calculated grade has to be a school judgement first and foremost, and the students are good kids and good girls and our teachers are very professional and do know our students the best.

'We are still waiting for further guidelines on this to be honest. We are willing to work within these guidelines so that the girls can be awarded for all their hard work and can get into college and can move forward after five or six years studying here in the school, and move forward to the next phase of their education.'

He said: 'It's unprecedented times and nobody is choosing this, but we need exceptional measures I suppose, and this is what we're now going to deal with.'

Mr McNamara said the new plans by the Department will 'probably place added pressure on everybody', as this was something that 'no one was ever expecting' for this year's Leaving Certificate.

Both teachers and students, he explained, had only recently settled into a routine of remote learning and education until the Department made a decision to postpone the exams.

The Department's decision did however, he said, offer some clarity to students who had faced weeks of uncertainty: 'That was the big thing, is that things were so unclear for so long. They were unclear until Good Friday, then on Good Friday they were supposed to have received clarity. That clarity was questioned in recent weeks and now they've a new system again.

'To be honest, I mean personally, that was really tough on the girls to be dealing with information coming from all angles in recent weeks, and trying to deal with that and prepare for the biggest exam in their young lives, but I suppose that's the world we live in.

'Now at least some of that pressure is eased, but now the grades have to be calculated following the guidelines that have been set and that's the next task', he said.

Mr McNamara said that while he was looking forward to Swords Loreto reopening in September, his priority was for the welfare of his Leaving Cert students as they wait for this year's saga to come to some sort of conclusion.

Fingal Independent