Your Leaving Cert questions answered by Minister McHugh
Minister for Education Joe McHugh took part in a livestream with SpunOut.ie on Tuesday
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On Tuesday afternoon, SpunOut.ie announced we would be holding a livestream on Instagram later that evening with Minister for Education, Joe McHugh. We asked Leaving Cert students to send us in their questions to ask the Minister on their concerns around the Leaving Cert exams.
We received 1,300 emails and the Instagram Live was watched by over 18,000 people. We took the questions that represented the most common issues for Leaving Cert students to ask Minister McHugh.
During the Instagram Live, the Minister revealed that they hope to hold the Leaving Cert at the end of July, with the first day of exams being July 29th 2020.
How the Minister for Education answered your Leaving Cert questions
Below is a summary of the Minister’s responses to your Leaving Cert questions.
Can you explain why you’ve made the decision to postpone written exams rather than replace them with another method?
The Minister explained that every decision made around the Leaving Cert was based on public health advice. The Department are planning on having students return to the classroom for at least two weeks before the exams take place, but this would not be possible if the exams were to take place on the original date in June. This is why the decision was made to postpone the exams until late July or early August.
The Minister revealed during the live that the date they hope to begin the exams will be Wednesday July 28th. This date and the timetable for the exams will be confirmed in the first week of June.
Predicted grades were looked at as an option, which would see teachers giving their own students the marks they predict they would get if they took the exam. However, because the Irish system does not have a standardised way of measuring continuous assessment (the work you do throughout the whole year), this would not be a straight forward option. The Minister believes predicted grades would not be a fair system, because they could vary wildly from teacher to teacher, or from school to school.
Will there be a “no detriment” policy?
In response to questions about a no detriment policy, which is a policy whereby once students pass their exams they would not receive a lower grade than their average grade before the exam, the Minister said they were not in a position to make a decision on that policy yet, due to the uncertainty of the current pandemic.
What happens if Leaving Cert “plan A” cannot go ahead?
When asked when it would be known if this “plan A” would not be possible, the Minister said they will confirm in the first week of June what will happen and when it will happen. In terms of social distancing for students coming back to school, the Minister said they needed to have the “best public health advice” as they did not want to risk the health of the students.
What will happen if students cannot paying the Leaving Cert fees?
When asked if it will be taken into consideration that many students will not be in the position to pay the €116 fee for the Leaving Cert due at the end of April, the Minister said that they are “taking into consideration the financial difficulties that people are under” and that he will have a conversation with his officials about the matter, and take on board the reality of many students regarding the fee.
How will you take on board the “digital divide” that exists for many students?
The Minister said that they are in very close talks with the Department of Communications, and are looking at ways of reducing the digital divide. He also said that in a couple of days time they will have a formal decision on ICT (Information and Communications Technology) support so schools can help their students who experience the “technological divide.”
What about students who need special education support?
In response to questions around access to special education support the Minister said that they have identified the need in those areas and will continue to support those vulnerable students.
How will student do their practical work for the Leaving Cert?
Speaking on how practical and project work will be completed by students if they return to school, the Minister said there will be a “common sense solution” to the practicals that ensures students will not be doing practicals during the last two weeks in July when they will be revising for the written exams.
How will the Leaving Cert Applied be affected if the exams go ahead?
When asked how the Leaving Cert Applied will be affected, the Minister said that an announcement will be made on that in the coming days after the relevant stakeholders meet again to discuss the issue.
How will immunocompromised students sit the Leaving Cert?
With regards to immunocompromised students and teachers Minister McHugh said that they are still looking into what needs to be put in place to support the health and safety of students and teachers. He said they will issue guidelines on the topic once they have the full guidelines from health officials.
How will the Minister support the mental health of students during the Leaving Cert?
The Minister was asked that if these exams go ahead, how will he address the mental health issues that some students may experience due to the pandemic and sitting the Leaving Cert. The Minister said they will be putting together a comprehensive Wellbeing Programme, which he will announce in a few days, to help support students.
Will the Appeal System still be in place for Leaving Cert students this year?
With regards to the appeal system the Minister said that they will ensure that “due process” stays in place and that they are working with the Higher Education Authority on the timelines surrounding the Leaving Cert and starting college.
Will financial supports still be there for students going to college?
The Minister said that SUSI grant funding will be there to support families under financial pressure and those supports will still be in place.
If the Leaving Cert results aren’t out until after September how will students attend universities outside of Ireland?
The Minister said he has called Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education in England, and that they have agreed to work on a solution to deal with the change in the Leaving Cert calendar. The Minister also said that the Department of Education will also be working with their colleagues throughout the European Commission to find a solution for students who planned to go to university in Europe.
Read our COVID-19 Guide for School and Youthreach students, to find advice and support for Leaving Cert students in the run up to exams.
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