Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills

Leaving Certificate Reform: Discussion with School Management Bodies

Mr. John Curtis:

Even before the Deputy mentioned DEIS schools, in my reply I was going to refer to them because, certainly from my point of view, over the years, in the context of educational disadvantage, I would urge the State to invest in the DEIS scheme because it is the best way in which we can help the disadvantaged students in our system. I have seen the work that has been done in DEIS schools over the years, especially in urban DEIS schools, and it is marvellous. We need to make sure we invest properly in DEIS schools over time. It is key for us and hugely important.

We are going back to a more traditional model of assessment for next year's leaving certificate, all going well. We certainly learned from the accredited and calculated grades processes. We are obviously not sure what is going to emerge. We are all very concerned about the grade inflation and what happened with regard to the CAO this year. That is something we will have to engage on as partners in the education sphere. At the moment, we have been so intent on finishing the leaving certificate process for 2021 and managing the appeals process that it is only now that our minds will turn substantially towards what is going to happen next year with regard to the leaving and junior certificates. The point the Deputy made about grade inflation is very valid and is something we will have to wrestle with.

With regard to broadband, we are in touch with the Department of Education all the time with regard to ensuring that broadband facilities around the country are as good as they can be. We will continue to pursue that because, as the Deputy has said, there were issues around that in the period when the schools were closed. There was progress on certain areas in that respect but there is certainly work that could be done.

I will make one general point, if I may. When we have so many people here from different political parties, it is incumbent on us to mention the frustration we feel as education partners, which was mentioned earlier. Our education system is highly valued. The OECD report on education that was mentioned earlier is fulsome in its praise of Ireland. We are introduced in the report as "Ireland, one of the high-performing education systems across OECD countries". However, we have a difficulty with regard to the proportion of GDP that is invested in education in any given year. I would ask the members present to reflect on that. We have a marvellous education system. We want reform and change but we need to be able to develop our infrastructure as we do so.


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