THE Leaving Cert is one of the great Irish rites of passage but the class of 2020 will never negotiate it.
It may not be ideal but Alan Cunningham, principal of St Caimin’s in Shannon, feels it is probably the least worst option at this stage. “Yeah, the unknown was the disaster for everyone. Taking into account everyone’s wellbeing, keeping them hanging until July 29, when it might not have happened either. They had to come up with some kind of plan and it is what it is now, we can all get on with it and see how it comes out the other end.”
Some young people are happy with the idea of predicted grades, but not everyone is, he feels. “There’s a fair mix. You’d have some people delighted with it and some people who would feel they have a better chance on the day, with the paper. Every student has their individual way of looking at it. Some would have felt they were doing well before the schools shut, so the estimated grade would suit them. More would have planned a burst near the end. The result will be all that matters. If they get what they want they’ll be delighted with it.”
He says there are always teenagers who do well in the Leaving Cert following a late surge. “There are. In general it’s accepted that the mocks are a very poor reflection; there tends to be a big difference between what people get in them and what they get in the Leaving Cert.
“In fairness, they are on three months sooner. There were kids doing the H Path exams to get into medicine at the same time as the mocks, so that was what they concentrated on. They would have said there was no point in the mocks.”
Alan says that teachers should have more detail on what is required of them by the weekend but they are being put in an awkward position. “In general, they’d want what’s best for the students, so the fact that it’s not unknown now, they’d be happy with that. But I don’t think anyone signed up for assessing their own students. I don’t think anyone ever thought they’d face that situation, especially people living in the community, people who have their own children in the school.”
There is still a lot of stress involved, he feels. “It’ll settle down but it’s still stressful enough, because people are very concerned. There was an abrupt end to the school year [for the Leaving Cert students]. We were told no more communication, no more contact, it was very abrupt. It all had to end and the department had to issue a directive that neither students nor parents should contact teachers,” he stated.
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.