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Leaving Cert needs overhaul, says Maynooth head


Prof Philip Nolan

Prof Philip Nolan

Prof Philip Nolan

A leading academic is calling for an overhaul of the way Leaving Cert students are assessed.

Maynooth University president, Prof Philip Nolan, said the reliance on the traditional written exams in June was "too narrow".

It comes as students are preparing to receive their exam results tomorrow.

"We need much more innovation and diversity in the modes of assessment to encourage better student learning," said Prof Nolan at the launch of the National Parents' Council Post-Primary (NPCpp) Exam 2017 Helpline.

Prof Nolan said there should be more subjects where students are assessed in project work that they complete in school, such as in design and communications graphics where 50pc of the marks are awarded for the practical.

Prof Nolan headed the universities task force on the reform of the points scale, which is being implemented this year, along with a restructuring of the exam grading system.


The changes, the first such in 25 years, have been designed to take the heat out of the points race while at the same time rewarding scholastic achievement.

However, Prof Nolan said it was only one step, a technical step, in what must be an ongoing process of reform around the Leaving Cert and the transition from second-level school to college.

"We need to consider new forms of assessment," he said.

Government education advisers, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), have already started a review of the Leaving Cert and are currently preparing a background paper on best international practice.

The road to change in the Leaving Cert is being paved by the reform of junior cycle, which is being implemented in all schools next month, after years of controversy because of resistance by one of the teachers' unions, ASTI.

At the centre of the row over junior cycle reform was a plan for teachers to assess their own students, but this was dropped.

The new-style junior cycle involves the introduction of classroom-based assessments.