Seanad debates

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

State Examinations

2:30 pm

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister for setting out the timelines, and that she has accepted the recommendations for changes to date. As the Minister said, however, they were made last August and I believe what has happened to our young students in the past four to five months is unprecedented. My son comes home telling me he has literally sat and shivered throughout the whole day with hands numb because the schools are so cold. I do not say this to be critical, because obviously every decision we make as a State, and indeed the decisions all our teachers make in this regard, are to try to provide the safest and best environment where children can continue to learn and so as not to learn remotely as we had to do the previous year.

Only before Christmas the Teachers' Union of Ireland, TUI, called for a delay in the return to school of our students and teachers until a short week-and-a-half ago. It seems alien now, given we are talking about lifting restrictions this weekend. The TUI was so concerned about staff absences and the environment in which the children, students and staff are working that it made that call over our Christmas holidays. This jars with the fact the TUI is now saying we should carry on as normal and do the exams, as if the past 22 months had not happened for the students. Of students surveyed by the Irish Second-level Students' Union, ISSU, last week, 68% said they wanted the hybrid model. They spoke about their stress levels, their well-being and their fears. We talk about the stress students are under during normal circumstances of a leaving certificate year, which is why we talk about reform, but this past 22 months has been anything but normal. Therefore, the leaving certificate this year cannot carry on as if we were living in normal times.


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