Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education, Thomas Byrne has called for the National Council for Curriculum Assessment (NCCA) to ensure that forthcoming recommendations for the future of the Leaving Cert are COVID-19 proofed and introduced as soon as possible.

The NCCA has been undertaking a review of Senior Cycle education since 2016 and is nearing completion. The review is expected to broaden and rebalance existing assessment approaches and to shape the curriculum to meet the needs of all learners for years to come.

Deputy Byrne said that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many vulnerabilities in education, in particular around the Leaving Certificate, and that lessons must be learned so that the level of upheaval seen this year can be avoided in the future.

He explained, “We will be living alongside COVID-19 until such a time as a vaccine is found and made readily available. Indeed, while we have never before seen a situation like this there is always the possibility it may happen again at some stage in the future and we will need to be prepared.

“It was already clear that the Senior Cycle was in need of reform and review and I believe that has taken on another dimension now. From issues surrounding written exams to challenges of practical projects it’s clear that the state exams are not cohesive to our new reality.

“We now have a situation where the NCCA is completing a review of Senior Cycle without expressly engaging with the issues which have been identified in the past few months and I don’t think that’s right.

“The Department of Education is also currently considering changes to the current cycle which will see interim measures introduced to protect the system. It makes sense that at least some of these processes should be combined.

“I have written to the NCCA to request that challenges identified by the current crisis are addressed in any forthcoming recommendations.

“There is a clear demand for change within the system. I don’t believe we should allow a situation to develop where we would make changes to a system which is due to be reformed anyway. Instead, we should future proof the reformed Senior Cycle and get it into schools as soon as possible,” concluded Deputy Byrne.