The Covid-19 pandemic has "highlighted the unsustainability" of the State exams "in their current form", and further exposes the "limitations of exams which place so much emphasis on a few weeks at the end of a student’s school life".
This is the view of Labour Galway City West councillor, Niall McNelis, who said rescheduling the Leaving Cert to the end of July/early August does not give any certainty to students. He is calling for a definite date to be announced and extensive consultations with student and teacher union representatives and all other stakeholders "to ensure we have workable solutions".
He is calling for the number of subjects eligible for CAO points to be reduced to five, and that, post-Covid-19, for the Department to conduct an "overhaul of how the exams are run that would see more of a focus on continuous assessment".
Uncharted waters for the Leaving Cert
Based on the latest advice from public health authorities, the Minister for Education, Joe McHugh TD, last week announced the postponement of the remaining elements of the 2020 Leaving and Junior cert examinations.
The Leaving Cert written examinations have been rescheduled to the end of July/early August, with the timetable for the exam published in early June. Subjects where there was project work and coursework due for completion by May 15, is extended to immediately prior to the commencement of the written examinations in the July/August period.
Practical tests in art, engineering, and construction, due to start on April 27, and the oral and practical performance tests in the Leaving Cert Applied programme due for May, are also rescheduled for July/August.
However, Cllr McNelis has called for “radical decisions" to be taken on the way the exams will run. “We are in uncharted waters when it comes to the Leaving Cert," he said. "All aspects of the exam should be reviewed to ensure fairness for all students."
Leaving Cert fee of €116 should be waived
Fianna Fáil Galway City East councillor Alan Cheevers is calling for the Leaving Cert fee of €116 to be waived - a call Cllr McNelis has also made. Cllr Cheevers said, despite the revised scheduling by the Department, there is "still no guarantee the exams will be held this summer".
Candidates who hold a full medical card, and who are covered on all services on a parent or Guardians full medical card, are not liable for these examination fees. The closing date for a medical card exemption is April 30.
"Schools are not in a position to ensure students have paid, or identify those who are entitled to an exemption," he said. A huge number of students who didn’t have a medical card before the outbreak would now be entitled to one, but the process to acquire it would not have begun yet."