Green Party TD and Senator meet Waterford Leaving Cert students to hear their concerns about the uncertainty they face over the coming months.

Green Party TD and Senator meet Waterford Leaving Cert students to hear their concerns about the uncertainty they face over the coming months.

Green Party TD and Senator meet Waterford Leaving Cert students to hear their concerns about the uncertainty they face over the coming months.

Waterford TD Marc Ó Cathasaigh and his Green Party colleague Senator Pauline O’Reilly met with Waterford Leaving Cert students to hear their concerns about the uncertainty they face over the coming months. Deputy Ó Cathasaigh and Senator O’Reilly sit on the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Education while Deputy Ó Cathasaigh is a former teacher and Senator O’Reilly is the Green Party’s spokesperson for Education.

They were joined by representatives of the ISSU (Irish Secondary Students Union) and students from 13 Second Level schools throughout Waterford. Students expressed concerns over a number of different issues relating to their experiences and Deputy Ó Cathasaigh and Senator O’Reilly assured them that they would bring the concerns to the Minister for Education, Norma Foley.

Deputy Ó Cathasaigh said: I really wanted to give the Waterford students the chance to have their say about the Leaving Cert and what they would like to see over the next few months. As a former teacher, I have concerns about the long-term impact the pandemic will have on the education of our young but in the short term, we need to do everything we can to help the Leaving Cert class of 2021. We know that these students have experienced huge uncertainty in the last year and I wanted to hear about the issues that are causing greatest concern. Senator O’Reilly and I will bring what we heard from the students to the Minister and our colleagues in the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Education and Skills.

Deputy Ó Cathasaigh said: Students spoke about their concerns around Orals and Practicals which they would normally be working on at this time. They can continue to prepare for their oral exams at home but most practical exams require time in school to complete projects. They spoke about the digital divide where some students don’t have access to the technology required to learn from home and they also raised safety concerns around being in school with high COVID numbers. The students were strong on their desire to have a combination of calculated grades and the traditional exam which they feel would suit everyone but they wanted the timing of both to facilitate all from the class of 2021 to start college together this coming Autumn.

Senator O’Reilly added: I was very interested to hear the students’ perspective on the current situation and to hear what they feel are the steps we should take over the coming months. They were very clear about the impact school closure and the uncertainty around the Leaving Cert are having on their studies and their mental health. They have been deprived of time with their peers and the normal social structures that would normally help students through this time and this is having an impact. There are many practical considerations around how we proceed with Orals and Practicals and whether we end up with a combination of Calculated Grades and actual exams but the student’s needs must be to the fore of any decisions made. Deputy Ó Cathasaigh and I will bring the views of these Waterford students to Minister Foley.

Deputy Ó Cathasaigh concluded: The students spoke about mental health and the impact the uncertainty around the exams is having on them and their peers. This impact cannot be underestimated given that it is compounded by the worry and stress they already experience due to the pandemic. The young are carrying an extra burden and the uncertainty is making a stressful situation worse. In a huge act of intergenerational solidarity, we see our young people – a generation far less likely to feel the worst effects of the virus making huge sacrifices to protect our older and more vulnerable communities. This is taking a toll.