McHugh and Ó Ríordáin clash in Dáil over new Leaving Cert grading system


Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

15.54 13 May 2020


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There has been a row in the Dáil over the new system for the Leaving Cert.

Last week, it was confirmed that the traditional written exams were being postponed - with students given the choice of accepting 'calculated grades' or waiting until a later stage to sit the exams.

Labour's Aodhan Ó Ríordáin has argued that the algorithms used by the Department of Education to standardise results will impact unfairly on disadvantaged schools as the results will be partly compared to the performance of the school in previous years.

However, Education Minister Joe McHugh claims the system will be fair and will not disadvantage any students.

The two TDs clashed on the issue in the Dáil chamber.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said he sometimes wonders if enough people “have any comprehension of what it’s like to be attending a Deis school, and the amount of barriers that are between you and maximising your potential”.

He argued that written exams - where the exam markers do not know who student is or which school they’re from - are sometimes the only opportunity for people “to break out of poverty and disadvantage”.

However, the suggestion that any students would be disadvantaged under this year's system were dismissed by Minister McHugh.

He said: “I think Deputy you’re doing an awful disservice to disadvantaged schools - we have exceptional students in disadvantaged schools.

“You’re sending the message out today that they’re going to be disadvantaged because they’re in a disadvantaged school - I think that’s a disgrace.”

Minister McHugh insisted that “exceptional students - whether they’re in a community school, Deis school or private school" will not be discriminated against under the new system.

Deputy Ó Riordáin, meanwhile, told the Education Minister he was “calling your process a disgrace, not you”.

Following the row, Deputy Ó Ríordáin called on Minister McHugh to withdraw his “flippant disgraceful remarks and engage on the substance of the issue of school profiling”.

The Labour TD said the anonymity of the traditional written Leaving Cert is gone, adding: “While the Labour Party accepts the assessed grade system as is proposed at this stage, we will not accept school profiling because it's fundamentally unfair.”

Main image: Education Minister Joe McHugh in the Dáil today. Picture via Oireachtas TV

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