Teacher and student representatives express serious concern at plan for students to sit Leaving Certificate examination papers at end of fifth year  

By piofficer, Thursday, 19th January 2023 | 0 comments

Both the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU) have expressed serious concerns about the Minister for Education’s stated intention that students would sit Paper One of the terminal Leaving Certificate examinations in both English and Irish at the end of fifth year. The measure would commence for students entering fifth year in September 2023.  

Representatives of the TUI and the ISSU will host a joint consultative conference this weekend on Senior Cycle Reform. This conference will bring together two important stakeholders to reflect on how the changes announced last March pertaining to the Senior Cycle will impact them.   

Speaking ahead of the joint conference TUI President Liz Farrell said:  

‘Our strong position is that Paper One of the terminal Leaving Certificate examinations in both English and Irish should not be completed at the end of fifth year. Such an educationally unsound move would pile significant additional pressure on students and teachers. It would particularly disadvantage those students who develop positive study habits at a later stage or the roughly 25% of students who either do not have access to, or who choose not to take up the option of Transition Year. The suggestion that fifth year students can complete a composition and comprehension examination in both languages a year earlier than their previous cohorts disadvantages students unnecessarily. Students must develop as writers in both languages and a two-year cycle of learning is required to enable this. A high stakes exam at the end of fifth year would also impact on a student’s preparation in other subjects, e.g. Mathematics. It will also curtail extracurricular aspects of school life so important to a holistic education.  

In more general terms, state certification is key to all developments and must be retained. TUI members are fundamentally opposed to assessing their own students for State certificate purposes and therefore external assessment and State certification – which retain significant public trust – are essential for all written examinations and all additional components of assessment. 

Significant further engagement between the Department and the stakeholders is required to ensure that reform is educationally sound and benefits all learners.’    

Also speaking ahead of the conference, ISSU Uachtarán Caitlin Faye Maniti said:   

‘The current format of the Leaving Certificate causes severe stress and increased anxiety amongst students, specifically the tight scheduling of the exams at the end of sixth year. The ISSU has always advocated for Leaving Certificate reform but the proposed changes are neither an adequate nor comprehensive enough solution to tackle the problems surrounding the Leaving Certificate exams and we do not see this leading to better outcomes for students. We cannot fully support these proposed changes with the lack of information, stakeholder consultation and the current inadequate timeframe for implementation.  

Further to this, we have yet to see a procedure for any Leaving Certificate 2024 for students who wish to repeat and re-sit their Irish and English Paper One exams, along with a procedure for students that wish to drop from Higher to Ordinary level when they enter sixth year. With so many gaps in the plan, specifically relating to the cognitive development of boys opposed to girls at the end of sixth year and valid concerns from students regarding the above, we simply cannot support this plan.  

Student voice and participation has been such a key driver of consultations when it comes to education. Having a student-centred approach is paramount to the quality of solutions that are being developed to date in relation to Senior Cycle reform. Above all, this important event is an opportunity to move these important conversations forward for the betterment of the Senior Cycle reform and highlight the need for more extensive stakeholder engagement with the Department of Education.’