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school chaos Foley under growing pressure to consider alternative to the traditional Leaving Cert

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Education Minister Norma Foley. Photo: Julien Behal

Education Minister Norma Foley. Photo: Julien Behal

Education Minister Norma Foley. Photo: Julien Behal

Pressure is growing on Education Minster Norma Foley to consider an alternative to the traditional Leaving Cert.

Several TDs raised the issue with the minister in the Dáil yesterday, with some supporting a return to calculated grades or a “hybrid model”, and all seeking an early decision on the fate of the exams.

A survey by more than 20,000 members of the Irish Second-Level Students Union (ISSU) is expected to show an appetite for change from normal arrangements.

The findings are due to be released over the weekend but ISSU president Reuban Murray last night gave a clear indication of the mood .

He said up to now the conversation had been around how the exams were going to happen, but it had to move to a place where the discussions were not solely focusing on that.

Against a groundswell for an alternative, teacher unions have reiterated their support for the traditional exams.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) said that “the highly trusted, externally-marked Leaving Certificate must take place in 2021.

“Our experience of calculated grades last year has left the union in no doubt that the customary State examinations are more reliable and enjoy significantly greater trust among the public at large and, critically, among students and teachers.”

Earlier, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) president Ann Piggott said that the Leaving Cert exams should run as normal in June.

She was responding to a call from Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley, who said the “best worst option” would be cancellation of Leaving Cert 2021 because the virus made it highly unlikely that students would enjoy the same face-to-face teaching time that would usually take place between now and June.

More attention turned to the Leaving Cert after a breakthrough in negotiations that may allow pupils with special needs back in school from next Thursday in the first phase of a staggered post-Christmas return.

After a meeting between Ms Foley, Junior Minister for Special Education Josepha Madigan and the education partners, the ministers said they had a “shared ambition” for a reopening of special schools and special classes in primary schools on January 21.

It may be the following week in post-primary schools.

Schools may also bring back children with special needs who do not participate in special classes and other vulnerable children.

Ms Foley said she also “very much” hoped that the ongoing negotiations would set out a pathway for the return of all children at all levels of schooling at the start of February.

This would be subject to public health advice.

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