Yesterday evening, the Department of Education announced that Leaving Certificate students could be given “choice” in this year’s examinations.
The method of alternative assessment is yet to be determined by the department, however the decision to offer alternative arrangements to a traditional exam was made following “intensive engagements” by a sub-group to develop a plan for this year’s exams.
These talks were held with several education stakeholders, including students, to discuss possibilities for this year’s examinations.
This is a turnaround for the Department of Education, as in early January of this year both the Taoiseach Michael Martin and the Minister for Education Norma Foley stated that they still intended to hold a traditional Leaving Certificate despite school closures.
In a statement last night, Foley said that there are “two distinct processes for Leaving Certificate 2021: planning for examinations and scoping out a corresponding measure, different to examinations that can also be offered to students”.
Foley added that a “parallel approach” needs to be explored compared to the combination of some form of continuous assessment and exams.
However, the minister maintained that “examinations need to be available to students”.
“Given the impact on learning for students both last year and this year, there is also a need to explore a parallel approach which can be offered to students.”
“Any corresponding measure should have the confidence of the education partners. Last year a process was put in place that involved schools generating estimated marks and the application of a national standardisation process. This allowed students to progress,” she said.
Students who chose to sit a traditional Leaving Certificate exam last year received their results last Tuesday, with 1700 of the 2155, just under 8 in 10, students choosing to sit the November exams alongside receiving Calculated Grades in the summer.
In the deferred Leaving Certificate, 39% of students had their grades increase from their original Calculated Grades.
The usual Leaving Certificate examinations that take place in June of every year were cancelled last year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The majority of the students taking the exams received Calculated Grades in the summer. However, there were some 460 candidates who were unable to access Calculated Grades as they were studying one or more subjects outside of school, or who chose to forego the Calculated Grades progress.
In September, 6,100 students had their Leaving Certificate results upgraded after the discovery of coding errors in the calculated grading system.