Government maintains Leaving Certificate to go ahead as schools shut

Schools and childcare facilities are closing until the end of the month

The government intends to run the Leaving Certificate exams as normal this year as schools close in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Schools and childcare facilities are closing until at least January 31 with the exception of Leaving Certificate students, who will attend schools three days a week.

Special education schools and classes will also be allowed to continue.

There was no mention of guidelines for higher education at the press conference announcing the latest restrictions today.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that “schools and childcare services remain safe environments, [but] the spread of the virus has got to the point where we must simply stop as much mobility in the country as we possibly can for at least the next three weeks”.

“The two limited exceptions are judged to be essential,” Martin said.

Martin said the government would be working towards running the Leaving Certificate exams this year, which was echoed by Minister for Education Norma Foley.

“Our Leaving Cert students deserve a chance to sit normal examinations this year,” Martin said.

Construction, with some exceptions, has also been stopped until the end of January.

Foley said that the measures were being introduced in terms of “what we can do to support society in what society needs to do”.

She said that schools have remained “safe places” during the pandemic.

In Trinity, the Library closed unexpectedly early by two hours yesterday evening following a memo discussed by the Covid-19 Management group.

Students did not receive warning of the closure, with some locked out while their belongings were left inside.

Speaking to Trinity News, Trinity College Dublin’s Students’ Union (TCDSU) President Eoin Hand said that a memo “was discussed at the Covid-19 Management group [yesterday] about the spike in Covid-19 cases and the safety of the library staff”.

Hand said that the memo sought to “pare back” opening hours.

“Myself, the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) president, the director of Student Services and the Director of the Health Centre argued different aspects of the memo with the general consensus that the spike in Covid-19 cases is indeed a major worry and a threat to public health, but doing so right before exams when so many students do not have adequate or appropriate study space and rely on the library, especially in the evenings, need these spaces.”

In December, the Taoiseach said that colleges would remain primarily online until at least January 12 as part of a tightening of post-Christmas restrictions. 

Previously, some colleges had been looking towards a partial return to face-to-face teaching in the second semester of the year.

A survey of Trinity students found that four in five students wanted more in-person teaching in Hilary Term if Level Three restrictions were in place, while 64% wanted more in-person teaching at Level Five.

The survey polled 6,053 students on their opinions of how Hilary Term should be handled and how well they coped during Michaelmas Term.

Vice Provost Jürgen Barkhoff said that College was considering “in detail” the “actionable issues” that the survey identified.

Barkhoff said he would be “discussing with staff how we can increase the amount of face-to-face teaching in small group seminars and tutorials, especially in those programmes that under Level 5 were entirely online”.

“Any face-to-face activity in Semester 2 will of course have to take the development of the pandemic into account and will adhere to social distancing and public health guidelines. You will be informed of the decisions as soon as they are finalised.”

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland was the Editor of the 67th volume of Trinity News. She is an English Literature and Sociology graduate and previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.