Q&A: Is it possible to deliver a hybrid Leaving Cert this year?

Q&A: Is it possible to deliver a hybrid Leaving Cert this year?

So what’s going to happen with the Leaving Certificate exams? Carl O’Brien, Education Editor, reports.

When will we find out if a hybrid option is going to happen? 
As of now, planning is being advanced for the State exams in June.

However, pressure is growing from students for a hybrid option that would allow them to choose between sitting exams and availing of teacher-assessed grades.

The State Examinations Advisory Group meets on Thursday afternoon to discuss plans for the 2022 exams. This group includes representatives of students, parents, teachers, school management bodies, the State Examinations Commission and Government departments.

No decisions are likely at the meeting: the next two weeks are seen by many as crucial in whether the Government will bow to pressure to deliver a hybrid option. It is acutely aware of the problem it may create further down the road.

What level of disruption have students faced compared to previous years? 
In 2020 and 2021, demand for alternatives to the Leaving Cert came at a time when schools were shut and anxiety levels were sky-high.

This year, by comparison, the landscape is more settled. Despite some doom-laden predictions, schools are open and the outlook is brighter. Arguably, the smooth resumption of schools weakens the students’ position.

However, it’s also fair to say students have also faced significant disruption over the past 22 months, along with high levels of student and teacher absences. The level of disruption was not equal and online tuition varied significantly during school closures.

Do modifications to written exams go far enough? 
Last August the Department of Education announced that additional choice would be incorporated into most written exams in 2022, with contingency built in for future disruption.

Oral exams will take place during Easter holidays – minimising disruption to tuition – while there is more flexibility on deadlines for coursework.

In terms of modifications to the written papers, some are modest and may not ease the burden significantly for students struggling to complete their courses on time. Students argue – with some persuasion – that further change is needed to take account of disruption.

Is a ‘hybrid’ Leaving Cert possible? 
In short, yes. It is understood that officials have been working on a contingency plan which involves giving students a choice between teacher-assessed grades and sitting exams.

However, it would be different to the “calculated grades” and “accredited grades” models of 2021 and 2020.

The absence of junior cycle grades for a cohort of students who did not complete transition year makes it much more challenging to objectively standardise teacher-assessed grades.

It remains to be seen how, exactly, this can be done without relying on controversial “school profiling” data. Assessment experts say other statistical methods are possible, but t may be less accurate as those used in previous years.

Will teachers facilitate a hybrid system? 
Teachers’ unions were opposed to school-assessed grades in 2020 and 2021; they eventually co-operated on a “without precedent” basis.

Once again, unions are opposed to teacher-assessed grades and say they will only co-operate on the basis of “absolute necessity”.

However, research has indicated that a significant minori

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