To school or not to school. That is the question.

To school or not to school. That is the question.

Minister Norma Foley contradicts herself on the Leaving Cert issue.

By Hannah Cahill

Over the last fortnight, students, parents and Special Needs Assistants around Ireland have watched in frustration as their valid concerns and questions have gone unheeded and unheard. Their voices have been silenced by the repetitive mantra of “Schools are safe”, from Minister for Education Norma Foley.

Leaving Certificate students have sat with their heads in their hands and their hearts in their mouths, as the Kerry TD dodged questions that concern not only the safety of said students but their futures as well.

Ms. Foley has repeatedly noted that the Leaving Certificate run in 2020 was successful, with “thousands” sitting the exams. She has also neglected the petitions from Leaving Certs, claiming that the majority wish to sit the exams.

She has ignored the pleas and testimonies from SNA’s, and the furious outcry from parents of children with special needs.

Where do students and their parents go to get clarification on when they will return to school? Or indeed if they are even safe to return to?

Anxiety is currently gripping the nation, which is quickly turning to fury.

So, let us set the facts straight.

Out of the 60,000 Leaving Cert students of 2020, only 2,800 sat one or more written exams.

800 of these students chose to only sit one exam.

There were 630 students who sat exams in two subjects, and 449 students who sat exams in three subjects. In the Leaving Certificate, you are marked on your top six subjects. Most students take seven subjects, and some will take eight or more.

Of the 60,000 Leaving Cert students, how many sat exams to the equivalent of the original Leaving Cert?

Are schools safe to return to or not? Which is it Minister?

There were only 88, with a mere 24 students taking eight subjects or more. That is 0.14% of 6th year students sitting the usually required 6 exams. 

The 6th years of 2020 missed over four months of revision, yet the 6th years of 2021 have missed the majority of their Leaving Cert course. The prospect of these students sitting the written exams is wholly unfair.

Several petitions are in circulation, calling for predictive grades to be implemented in the 2021 Leaving Certificate. Many of these petitions have between 15,000-30,000 signatures each.

Prior to becoming the Minister for Education, Norma Foley gave an interesting interview with The Kerryman in May of 2020. The U-turn in her rationale may leave many Leaving Cert students baffled.

“Leaving Cert students are currently experiencing unnecessarily heightened levels of stress and anxiety due to a lack of preparedness and planning by the Department of Education some eight weeks after schools closed,” she said.

Deputy Foley said it is ‘inexcusable’ that students are being forced to prepare for their exams in an information vacuum.

“There is absolutely no clarity for students as to how exactly the Leaving Cert exams will operate. Amazingly, the only information currently to hand is the July 29 date, nothing more” she claimed.

“Leaving Cert students are currently living in a state of Limbo. In the interest of the health and well-being of all concerned now is the time for full disclosure of plans by the Department of Education. Students, parents and teachers deserve nothing less” concluded Deputy Foley.”