Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of back and forth between the Education Minister, Norma Foley and Sixth Year students. We feel that in light of being told to stay home from school under current COVID restrictions, predicted grades would be a better option. Initially I felt that a ‘traditional Leaving Cert’ would be preferable; however, as I started to grasp the reality of the situation, I have to come to realise that predicted grades are the better option. Here are five reasons why.
No. 5: The Leaving Cert is not fit for purpose anyway
For generations now, Irish students have complained about the stress brought on by the Leaving Cert, how it is too standardised and too focused on the final exam. COVID 19 only serves to highlight these issues and my greatest hope is that the Department of Education put in a proper effort to reform this stressful system.
No. 4: Predicted Grades work
Although there were definitely some issues with predicted grades in 2020, by and large they proved to be just as effective as sitting a traditional Leaving Cert. Furthermore, we can learn from the mistakes made in 2020 to help improve this system. There is no reason to suggest that they would not work for us this year.
No. 3: Predicted Grades are more flexible
One of the biggest questions myself and fellow students have been asking our teachers this week is: “What’s the story with projects? What’s the story with orals? What’s the story with practicals?” Staying at home has led to most students missing major sections of the Leaving Cert course. The biggest problem with this is that, as a country, we do not learn everything collectively at the same time. One class might have chosen to focus on project work, this means that they have to catch up on a major chapter for the exam, it could be visa versa for another school. This makes it impossible for the department to effectively shorten the Leaving Cert course as it will always be to the detriment of at least one school. Predicted Grades allow for these discrepancies and encourage our teachers to focus on what we have done versus what we have to do.
No. 2: Our Mental Health is at risk
Over the past year, my mental health has suffered, like it has never done before. I am certain that I am not alone in saying that. The reality is that the Leaving Cert was always going to challenge me in that regard, but trying study for it during the pandemic is on another level. I must ask the government if they think a traditional Leaving Cert is worth risking a large cohort of students suffering with serious mental health issues. Predicted grades would give us breathing space to allow us to focus on the present.
No. 1: Nothing has been “traditional” about our year
The one thing I cannot understand about this whole situation is why the government feels it is appropriate to end our time in secondary school the “traditional” way when nothing has been traditional about our Leaving Cert experience. Last year, we were forced to watch the world lock down, to learn to cope with all the changes. This year, we have had to adapt to wearing masks all day in school and a constant sense of uncertainty. As a group we have suffered like everyone else has suffered and the government needs to acknowledge that. Forcing us through the stress and worry of a “traditional Leaving Cert” is an inappropriate response that lacks a sense of compassion from the government that Sixth Year students need right now.
Thank you for reading this article. Should any government official come across this, I would urge you to consider the plight of Sixth Year students, to remember all we have lived through. I would also encourage you to remember the age of the vast majority of Sixth Year students, most of have already turned eighteen, or will turn eighteen over the next few months. We will remember which politicians spoke up for us and which did not.