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:

I believe my colleagues would concur when I say that from my experience, the Minister, her predecessors, a number of whom I have worked with, and especially the Department of Education officials are adamant they will do what is best for students in the country. I have no doubt the change will be embraced. As I said earlier, I have great confidence in the people who are involved in the NCCA who are undertaking the research on this process.

As the Deputy rightly said, Mr. Flood, in a previous incarnation, was involved in doing stellar work around junior cycle reform. We are blessed in this country, and this is not patting ourselves on the back, with the quality and the calibre of people we have involved in the educational sphere. This speaks of the value we place on education in Ireland. Certainly, the discussions around reform thus far have been rich. We are all engaging with our own constituent bodies as to what that reform might entail. I believe there is going to be a richness in the conversation that will take place over the next few years around reform.

I have every confidence that the Minister and her officials will bring this about. I have one caveat to that. I mentioned there was a move towards reform of the leaving certificate back in the early 2000s. The political opinion at the time was that the leaving certificate as it was then suited all but 14% of the student cohort and therefore it was decided to leave it as it was. What was looked at as a possibility then was not proceeded with it. However, we are now in a different space. We have learned from transition year, TY, from the leaving certificate applied, LCA, from the leaving certificate vocational programme, LCVP, and from junior cycle reform. As well as this, we have learned from the experiences of Covid-19. We are all intent on bringing about something substantial and fundamental. I have confidence that the people with whom we work in the Department of Education will be of like minds in that respect.

I take the point about the difficulties pupils who are currently in fifth and sixth year might have with the leaving certificate because of time lost. As with all things during Covid, all we can do is manage this as best we can. There have been adaptations to the curriculum for students doing their leaving certificate examinations this year. Mr. Flood reckons the class hours have helped, the hours the Department and the Minister have allowed schools this year to help pupils who might have been caught up in the pandemic and who were not able to avail of teaching and learning in the manner in which they or their schools might have wished. There are, therefore, a few things in play. We will do our best, as we always do, in that regard. We all know it is not a perfect situation. However, I have to say that, collectively, we have managed the past couple of years well. I have no doubt that whatever happens this year, we will manage it in a relatively successful fashion. However, I take the point that certain pupils have lost out on teaching and learning in the course of the past two years. It is something that concerns us and something we have to try to remedy as best we can.


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