IRSP vigorously oppose Dept of Education’s plan for the final results of Leaving Cert 2020

IRSP vigorously oppose Dept of Education’s “School-Profiling” plan for the final results of Leaving Cert 2020 – as the Leaving Cert saga exposes class fractures and biases at work in the Irish education system ~

Last week the Irish government announced the cancellation of this years 2020 Leaving Cert exam after a campaign of pressure from concerned students, parents and education professionals about the impossibility of holding this years’ final exams in a safe or fair way. 

While the IRSP fully support the health & safety reasons for cancelling this years Leaving Cert, we also hold the position that the Leaving Cert was impossible to be carried out in a fair and transparent way. Given the current and ongoing lockdown many working class families with incomes from the lower average scale were at an immediate disadvantage. Inequality is embedded into the Irish education system in the same way it is embedded structurally across all of Irish society. Many working class families with children attending schools designated as ‘DEIS’ (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), and from working class communities all over the country would not be able to afford the electronic devices or fast enough broadband in order to adequately prepare for the LC exam across new online platforms such as Zoom. This is not to mention the already blatant advantage that students from wealthy families have, as those who attend the ‘high achieving’ schools and with the financial clout to be able to pay for private tuition and grinds benefit advantageously from uneven access to economic and cultural capital. 

Furthermore, the IRSP vigorously oppose the Government and Dept of Education decision to adjust the predictive grades that teachers will now give to their LC students, and to align them (through school-profiling, in what they are now calling ‘calculated grades’) with the average results over the last three years. The brazen social class aspect of this unfair move is to copper-fasten the bought privilege of the so called ‘high-achieving’ (and fee-paying) schools and to ensure working class students and schools remain at a disadvantage. 

We reject this approach out of hand, and call for no students to be disadvantaged by the Covid-19 pandemic. We call for a solution to be found where all LC students who want to go onto 3rd level education next year be accommodated given the unprecedented nature of the situation that affected the school year – in effect giving all LC students who have applied to the CAO system to be granted their first choice. The universities and 3rd level institutions, have already declared that their numbers of foreign students will collapse due to international travel restrictions. This means that they will have excess capacity next year, and with State support can be encouraged to take the correct step of making 3rd Level Education available to every student in the country who wishes to study beyond secondary schooling. 

The global pandemic has changed Ireland in ways no one could have imagined just a few short months ago. In the aftermath, we will have a choice of whether to go back to an old austerity ravaged Education system or to imagine and carry-out progressive alternatives and improvements to Education in Ireland, and indeed across all our public services. We call on the working class and all progressive organisations to lead and to organise towards this very achievable goal. The demands for a reshaping of Education in Ireland require the imagining of a better Ireland as a whole. An Ireland where the disadvantaging of the many disappears, and the privileges of the wealthy wither and die.