The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union issued an open letter to the Minister for Education & Skills Norma Foley calling for the traditional state exams to be replaced with an alternative format for 2021. The ISSU is currently consulting with students in its 480 member schools, and through this process plans to bring forward student views and potential solutions for the 2021 state examinations in due course. A survey launched last week by the Union has already received 20,000 responses, the results of which will be published this weekend. A Town Hall of member student councils will also take place this weekend to hear further student feedback on the state of online learning, school closures and the state examinations.
Speaking on the matter, ISSU President Reuban Murray stated “Students are really struggling, particularly those in exam years. Leaving Certificate students are entering their fourth month of online learning of a 2-year senior cycle, and even though we knew that schools were not able to deliver online learning to the same standard last year, these gaps have not been filled or addressed in the intervening months. Now we are looking at an uneven playing field for students in the home stretch towards exams, and student stress and anxiety is unbelievably high”.
Regarding a potential solution to the state examinations, ISSU Education Officer Alicia O’Sullivan stated “This is something that still needs to be answered by the Department, and we will be feeding into these decisions by continuing to consult with our members to ensure that we are representing their views and concerns correctly. We want to work with the Department and other education stakeholders by exploring innovative ways that the exam classes of 2021 can be awarded grades fairly and safely, and we now have the time to evaluate these processes and give guidance to students. This needs to be decided on soon however; we cannot string students along with months of uncertainty and backtracking on decisions to the detriment of students’ welfare. We do know however, that the traditional State Exams cannot go ahead as was initially planned”.
The ISSU will be welcoming students from member schools to join a Town Hall Webinar this Saturday 16th January from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. Students may register at issu.ie/town-hall. The ISSU Survey on Reopening of Schools & State Examinations will run until Thursday 14th January at 12pm. This survey is open to all second-level students.