The government announced yesterday that the 2021 Leaving Certificate examinations will proceed this June, after months of indecision and uncertainty. Students will have the alternative option of applying for predicted grades due to the extraordinary circumstances caused by the pandemic and ensuing interruptions in learning. 

Minister for Education, Norma Foley, believes that students must be afforded the choice not to sit the traditional set of examinations given the disruption in learning caused by the lockdown. The alternative option of applying for grades accredited by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), to be known as SEC-Accredited Grades is essential to ensuring a fair system.

Foley stated “all stakeholders have worked extremely hard to get to this point. I have listened carefully to all, and we have worked together to find solutions. Students and parents have been clear on the need for both clarity and choice which I believe this decision gives them.”

Leaving Certificate - Minister Foley
Minister Norma Foley – Photo Credit: The Irish Sun

Though accepting predicted grades is an option for students, Foley stated that those grades will not be available ahead of the scheduled exams which begin on June 9th.  For those choosing to sit the exams, oral examinations will be held during or shortly after the Easter break. Additional time will also be provided by the SEC for the completion of project work. However, the oral and coursework components will not be part of the Accredited Grade process.

Robert Kane, a Leaving Cert student attending Holy Child Community School in Sallynoggin said that he is annoyed at the length of the negotiation process but is ultimately “very happy” with the decision and believes that student’s voices “have been heard and taken into account when making this decision.”  

This decision was reached after turbulent negations between government groups and education stakeholders. Earlier this month The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) withdrew from the talks due to concerns about the lack of data potentially hindering the calculated grades, however, they re-entered negotiations a week later.

It is hoped that the government’s decision this week will provide students with some clarity, with Minister Foley stating, “Everyone wants a system that is fair and that provides the opportunity for real progression for students.”

Sarah Eiland – Reporter