Leaving Cert 2022: Minister confirms written exams along with return of Junior Cert

Leaving Cert 2022: Minister Confirms Written Exams Along With Return Of Junior Cert
The Children's Ombudsman, student groups and Opposition parties have all criticised plans for traditional exams. Photo: PA Images
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The Cabinet has signed off on plans for written Leaving and Junior Certificate exams this year, after Government Ministers defended a traditional exam-only format as the “fairest” option.

Minister for Education Norma Foley confirmed that this year’s Leaving Cert will be held as exams only, ruling out a hybrid approach. Ms Foley said the exams will be “tailor-made” in recognition of the challenges students have faced in recent years.


Junior Cert exams will also return this year for the first time since 2019, she confirmed.

“I have listened to and engaged with parents, teachers, students, school management bodies, and I can confirm that the decision for the Leaving Certificate exams will take place in June,” Ms Foley said.

“But they will be radically different exams from what students would have experienced in pervious years, in 2018 and 2019.

“They will now be considerable choice on the paper and less content to be studied. For example, in maths students would have ten questions to answer, now they will have six.


“I want to make clear that the alterations on the exams extend beyond the papers, they extend into the oral, the practical and coursework. For example, the orals in Irish they would have had 20 to prepare for, now they have ten.”

'Fairer outcome'

The Children's Ombudsman, student groups and Opposition parties have all criticised the planned return to more traditional exams, calling for a hybrid model similar to that used over the past two years amid the pandemic.

Speaking on his way into this morning's Cabinet meeting, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said that the use of a hybrid model was complicated this year by issues with accredited grades.

“I don’t think it was possible to do a hybrid Leaving [Cert] because of the difficulty, a quarter of the students hadn’t done their Junior Cert and therefore how you do accredited grades wouldn’t be possible, certainly not in the same way it was done last year,” he said.


“So I can understand some people’s disappointment but I think it’s a fairer outcome.”

Meanwhile, Minister Simon Coveney told RTÉ radio that the format of this year's exams was a “difficult thing to get right.”

“All I can say is first, Minister Norma Foley has been working on this issue since August,” he said.

“She’s listened to an awful lot of different interested parties and stakeholders, and obviously is working with her department and trying to get this right. One of the big problems here is that one in four students doing their Leaving Cert this year, didn’t do their Junior Cert, because of Covid.


“I think Minister Foley and the Department of Education has shown remarkable flexibility over the last number of years to try to accommodate the concern and the stress of students. And my understanding is that Minister Foley will try and do that again this time, but there’s also an obligation on her to ensure that it’s fair and that the integrity of the Leaving Cert is protected as well.”

Student response

Earlier on Tuesday, Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty described the plans to rule out a hybrid approach as "the wrong decision," while Labour’s Aodhan O Riordain said the move would be "devastating".

President of the Irish Second Level Students Union (ISSU), Emer Neville, described the latest developments as “very disappointing to see”.

“Students have made it abundantly clear that they’re not prepared to sit the traditional Leaving Cert, even with more changes made to the papers,” she said.


The Children’s Rights Alliance said returning to “business as usual” with the Leaving Cert was a missed opportunity for reform.

“The Covid-19 pandemic placed a spotlight on the issue and forced us to rethink our system of senior cycle education,” said its chief executive Tanya Ward.

“The Government responded positively in a crisis and made the sensible decision to introduce calculated grades. We’ve seen how successful the hybrid model can be from the point of view of young people sitting the exam. We should listen to them about their lived experience to help determine what is the best system going forward.”

Meanwhile, one school principal described the decision to go ahead with a traditional format this year as “the least worst option” – although he added the decision should have been made last September.

Leaving Cert 2022 plans slammed as ‘wrong decision...
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Colm O’Rourke, who is principal of St Patrick's Classical School in Navan, said the accredited grades system had become completely discredited.

“You cannot have a situation where over a space of two years, you had 200-plus [students] getting 70 H1s and then it jumps to 900 H1s,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.

If given a choice students would opt for the hybrid system, he said, but a system with objective standards must be run and the Leaving Cert, for all its failings, delivers that.

-Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke and Press Association.

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