Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills

Leaving Certificate Reform: Discussion with School Management Bodies

Photo of Rose Conway-WalshRose Conway-Walsh (Mayo, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

Yes, I was unfortunate enough today to get two questions to the Taoiseach, a bit like the buses, so I apologise. If any of the questions I raise have been answered, the witnesses should not worry about answering them again as I will be able to pick up the responses in the transcript of the meeting.

I am delighted the committee is having this session and I thank the witnesses for their statements. I think we are all on the right track here as to where we need to be regarding the leaving certificate. I have a couple of questions as to what the witnesses think the key characteristics are of the current leaving certificate system that perpetuate educational disadvantage. How do they see the leaving certificate next year panning out? Obviously, people who are doing the leaving certificate now or who are in their leaving certificate year are really concerned about time they will miss because of being close contacts or having to stay away, and time they have already missed in the leaving certificate cycle. Are the witnesses happy with where things are in that regard? How will we tackle grade inflation for next year?

I need to say something about broadband because I come across students all the time who face disadvantage upon disadvantage regarding broadband. Have any of the witnesses had input into the broadband plan and the choices that are made in that regard? I look at County Mayo and see the areas which already have certain speeds and which seem to be prioritised again whereas certain geographical areas continue to be left out. Second level students are now being told that it will be 2026 and 2027 before their households get included. That is a real, serious problem for us in the context of the digital divide and disadvantage. I would like to see the witnesses having a key role in decisions that are made in that regard.

I welcome that computer science has been mentioned as well as the subjects that are available in the curriculum matching up to what is needed in our workforce and for our future development. What concerns me, however, is that while computer science is available in some schools, it is not in others. I have a particular interest in this because my son wants to do computer science this year but has to do it all on his own. A student in a school in Dublin or in another more highly populated area than mine may be able to do computer science through the curriculum. My son is at a severe disadvantage in trying to teach himself computer science, and I am sure that is the same for many youngsters across the board. I ask the witnesses to address those points first.

I really believe in DEIS schools. I do not see any stigma whatsoever surrounding DEIS schools. I have seen the brightest of pupils come from DEIS schools. Those supports are really important. I find it unusual to hear there is a stigma attached to those schools because that would never have come into my psyche at all.


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