The Riddle of the Leaving Certificate

I’ve been studying the ‘Roadmap‘ outlining the gradual relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions that, all being well. will begin on May 18th. There are five phases of this process, each lasting three weeks. At any point the process can be stopped or reversed if the data suggest things are going wrong.

It’s quite consistent with how I imagined it might work when I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago:

As a physicist I see the change being rather like an adiabatic process, carried out in quasi-static fashion, in a series of reversible steps…

Some measure of social distancing will remain even after the completion of all five phases, and will probably stay in place until a vaccine for Covid-19 is available.

I first noted this in Phase 1:

Which suggests that some staff may be allowed onto campus. At my University (Maynooth), however, teaching will have finished by May 8th. By May 18th the exam period will have started but it is not obvious that the above can be interpreted as allowing staff into their offices to mark examinations and project assessments. Speaking for myself I would find that useful. I suppose we will find out fairly soon what it means.

On the whole the Roadmap seems to me quite reasonable. It is rather broadbrush in character, which is understandable, though that does mean many details need to be worked out. There is however one very surprising omission which leads to a serious contradiction and is causing considerable confusion.

According to the Roadmap, Irish schools will not reopen until Phase Five, which commences on August 10th, just in time for the start of the 2020/2021 academic year.

On the other hand it has already been announced that the School Leaving Certificate examinations (which start in June in a normal year) would commence on July 29th. Moreover the Education Minister has previously indicated that these examinations would only happen after two weeks of classroom teaching for students who have been having only remote teaching during the Lockdown.

If schools are not to reopen until August 10th then it is not possible for the Leaving Certificate to start on July 29th. Even if the classroom teaching bit is scrapped there won’t be anywhere for students to sit the examinations!

There’s no mention of the Leaving Certificate in the Roadmap which suggests that the Government hasn’t thought it through yet. It seems to me virtually certain that a u-turn is coming up and the Leaving Certificate is going to be cancelled after all. Students will probably welcome this outcome but I’m not sure what it would mean for this year’s University admissions!

On the other hand I am informed by a reliable source that the Government is adamant that the Leaving Certificate will go ahead on 29th July as planned. The question is how?

5 Responses to “The Riddle of the Leaving Certificate”

  1. If it’s indeed a quasistatic process, Peter, we’re going to be waiting a very, very long time indeed to return to normality…

  2. […] will be cancelled. That decision seems to have surprised quite a few people but to me it looked inevitable once the Covid-19 Roadmap was published last Friday. If you recall these examinations would normally take place in June but […]

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