Proposed Leaving Cert changes more reform than revolution

Continuous assessment component main bone of contention

In March Education Minister Norma Foley announced plans to change the Leaving Certificate system that will set the agenda for reform over the next decade.

The changes aim to reduce final exams to 60 per cent of overall marks and to spread the exams over the two years cycle. The plans aim to address long-standing criticism of the Leaving Cert of inducing stress in students and promoting rote learning to pass exams.

While the plans to spread the marking load received widespread agreement, the means of doing so did not. The 40 per cent continuous assessment is to be based on teacher’s marking, something to which the  secondary schools teacher’s unions are completely opposed.

Another element to the reforms is the introduction of two new subjects: drama, film and theatre studies; and climate action and sustainable development which will be trailed in pilot projects.

Some of the main points of the plan are:

• Introduction of new curricula for subjects

• Introduction of new subjects

• Changing the final assessment to reduce reliance on final exams and introduce teacher-based assessment

• The 60:40 exam/assessment split

• The NCCA and SEC will jointly research and define how the assessment would have external oversight

• Initial tranche of new and revised subjects will be available in September 2024

• Students entering Senior Cycle in September 2023 will sit Paper 1 in English and Irish at the end of fifth year

The TUI and ASTI both welcomed the tenor of the proposals while repeating their trenchant opposition to teachers marking their own students.

“It is long-standing ASTI policy that certification in the state exams is entirely externally assessed. This must be retained in all aspects of the development of the Leaving Cert” said ASTI President Eamon Dennehy.

TUI General Secretary Michael Gillespie said:”TUI members are fundamentally opposed to assessing their own students for State certificate purposes and therefore external assessment and State certification – which retain significant public trust – are essential for all written examinations and all additional components of assessment.”

Repeat Leaving Cert students would still be able to do exams at one sitting.