Lockdown Prolonged, Leaving Certificate Postponed

I’ve just listened to the latest update on the Covid-19 situation in Ireland. One entirely predictable announcement made this afternoon was that the current restrictions on movement will continue until Tuesday May 5th at the earliest. Monday May 4th is a Bank Holiday in Ireland.

I would personally be surprised if the measures now in place were eased before June, actually, but it seems sensible to wait and see if the situation improves before making a decision on further extensions.

(Incidentally, I am keeping track of the Covid-19 numbers in Ireland on a page here.)

Another announcement made today is likely to be more controversial: that this year’s School Leaving Certificate examinations, due to start on June 3rd, will postponed until “late July or early August”.

Among many other things, this will cause those of us involved in University teaching quite a few problems to solve. A lot of thinking caps will be getting dusted off right now!

On the normal cycle, Leaving Certificate results are available in mid-August and successful students begin their University courses in mid-September.

Assuming that there is a delay of two months in sitting the exams and no time can be made up in the marking and moderation process, we’re looking at students not being able to start their courses until mid-November, just a few weeks before the normal end of the First Semester. I have heard suggestions that new students could start in October but these have not included any explanation of how to speed up the process enough to make this possible.

It seems possible to me that, because starting in November would create more problems than it would solve, new students might actually have to defer entry until January, which means in turn that their Second Semester would have to take place during the period June-August. That, in turn, will require staff to abandon any plans for summer research activity and, for some science disciplines, will involve labs being kept open when they are usually closed for upgrades.

Presumably the proposal will be that returning students will follow the usual academic year timetable, but there’s a problem there too if students have to repeat modules from the 1st year which are to be taught on a different calendar.

I’m sure that none of these problems are insoluble but I’m equally sure that the powers that be haven’t really thought about them. Ireland’s current Government does not give the impression of being that interested in universities or the staff who work in them. In recent weeks lecturers have worked exceptionally hard to switch to online teaching and assessment only to have these efforts conspicuously ignored in a recent statement by the Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’connor. No doubt the Government will again just take it for granted that we’ll sort things out on their behalf.

3 Responses to “Lockdown Prolonged, Leaving Certificate Postponed”

  1. Delaying the LC until late summer is really the only option, as Irish schools don’t have a nationwide system of predictive grading. The issue of late results isn’t in fact unprecedented- my own LC results were delayed until September due to a teacher’s strike. Colleges started a week or tow later than normal, it wasn’t that big a deal

    • telescoper Says:

      If it’s straightforward to get the LC marked that quickly why do we have usually have to wait so long?

  2. I wouldn’t say say straightforward, but it can be done. My point is that it has been done before, for reasons much less pressing than a global pandemic. In a world where thousands of people are losing jobs, many of which may never be replaced, this is doable stuff

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