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Students call for more time to complete new English exam


Students Ellen McKimm, Adrianne Ward, Faye Dolan and Tara O’Sullivan

Students Ellen McKimm, Adrianne Ward, Faye Dolan and Tara O’Sullivan

Students Ellen McKimm, Adrianne Ward, Faye Dolan and Tara O’Sullivan

Four Dublin students have appeared before an Oireachtas committee, seeking a 30-minute extension to the new-style Junior Cycle English exam.

A change from tradition saw the time to complete the paper cut to two hours as part of the wider Junior Cycle reforms that now see students doing two school-based assessments as well.

But the pupils from Loreto College, St Stephen's Green, argued that the final exam was "like a competition to see how fast you can write instead of an actual test of your knowledge and ability".

They appeared before the Oireachtas Petitions Committee, set up in 2016 to investigate and identify improvements in the delivery of public services to citizens. Committee chair, Deputy Sean Sherlock, described it as a very significant day as the students, Tara O'Sullivan, Adrianne Ward, Ellen McKimm and Faye Dolan, were the first petitioners invited to appear before the committee.


Ms O'Sullivan said: "Those who managed to finish the paper didn't have any time to read over it."

She said one of the key elements of the new Junior Cycle was "to carefully plan, draft and redraft everything we write and the new English exam directly contradicts this philosophy".

She said they organised the petition, which to date has gather more than 12,000 signatures, after seeing the sample papers issued by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) and later the "mocks", which are prepared by commercial providers.

Mr Sherlock said they had already had discussions with the Department of Education and the SEC about the matter. He said they also wanted to speak to the Irish Second Level Students Union (ISSU).

After receiving the petition in March, the SEC said it reassured candidates that the exam would be suitable for completion within the two hours set down and that "this was indeed the case".

The commission said that reports from teachers and candidates on the exam "show they executed without any issues arising and difficulties were not experienced by the vast majority in respect of completion time".