The hybrid Leaving Cert of 2021 which gave students a choice between sitting written exams and accredited grades will be “impossible” to re-run this year, according to senior education sources.
Current sixth year students who did not complete transition year did not sit the Junior Cert in 2020 when it was cancelled due to Covid - meaning there is no objective data on their previous exam performance.
This information was crucial to the standardisation process for marks estimated by teachers, which helped ensure fairness and consistency in accredited grades awarded in 2020 and 2021.
On this basis, the State Examination Commission (SEC) told education partners earlier this week that it will not be possible to run calculated or accredited grades for this year’s cohort of students, according to informed sources who spoke to The Irish Times.
The SEC is understood to be examining other contingency plans for Leaving Cert 2022.
Separately, an academic who was part of an independent steering committee which oversaw the use of calculated grades in 2020 said any move towards a hybrid model along the lines of last year’s exams “might be impossible”.
Prof Michael O’Leary, of DCU’s centre for assessment research, policy and practice in education, said this was the case given that crucial data on Junior Cycle grades for large numbers of students who did not sit the exam would not be available to the SEC.
In a statement on Tuesday evening, the SEC said it was “advancing all preparations” for the 2022 Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle exams, including all orals and written exams in June.
It said adjustments to the 2022 State exams - including more choice on the exam papers - were designed to reflect the loss of learning time students experienced and include contingency for future learning loss.
“They are intended to provide clarity, certainty and reassurance to students, their parents/guardians, teachers and schools about the format and structure of this year’s examinations,” it said.
An alternative set of exams will also run shortly after the main set for students who experience a close family bereavement, Covid-19 illness or other serious illness during the first exam period.
However, students, the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals and representatives of Opposition parties have united against pressing ahead with traditional exams as planned.
‘Cannot go ahead as planned’
The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU) said on Tuesday that the State exams “cannot go ahead as planned” this year due to Covid-related disruption.
A move to proceed with traditional exams would suggest a “complete disregard for students’ best interests”, it said.
ISSU president Emer Neville said this year’s cohort of exam students has been “very vocal about the disruption they are facing in and out of the classroom”.
“There is no online tuition provided to those isolating, and students have missed class time throughout 2021 and 2020 as a result of school closures,” she said.
Paul Crone, director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, also said there needs to be something additional to this year’s exams to account for the Covid disruption.
“We don’t know exactly what that should look like, or what’s possible, but what we’re saying is we should put students first,” he said.
A number of teachers’ unions, including the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI), have expressed the view that “traditional” and externally-assessed exams should take place in 2022.
The Department of Education has said it is “aware of the disruption” experienced by students due to undertake their Leaving Cert exams in 2022, but said adjustments to assessment arrangements were designed to take account of this.