The Minister for Education Joe McHugh has said that the 29th of July is the most likely date for when the Leaving Cert examinations will begin. Speaking last night in a live Instagram interview with SpunOut.ie’s CEO Ian Power, the Minister said that although the date has not been fully confirmed, it is most likely for the Leaving Cert Exams to start on the 29th of July.
Instagram Live Q&A with Minister for Education Joe McHugh
In the lead up to the interview with the Minister for Education, SpunOut.ie received over 1,300 emails from Leaving Cert students across Ireland with regards to the state examinations. One of the most popular questions for the Minister, which was received over 400 times, was why the Department of Education had chosen to let the state exams go ahead at a later date.
Speaking live on our Instagram story, Minister McHugh said that the reason the Department had decided to go ahead with the exams was because it was the fairest option.
“We did look at predicted grades, I know there were a lot of students that looked at the possibility of predicted grading, as an option and one of the things that we were very very adamant about was to have fairness at the heart of this. And because we don’t have a standardised continuous assessment mechanism for the leaving cert for a two year period we felt that fairness would not be at the heart of it.”
The Minister reiterated the Taoiseach’s statement that the Leaving Cert would go ahead “by hook or by crook”, and said they did not want to make it happen to put a burden on young people, but because they did not believe that predicted grading was fair and that it was “too biased.”
Your questions about the Leaving Cert to Minister Joe McHugh
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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