Rhona Butler (centre) on the occasion she was awarded Overall Student of the Year at Scoil Mhuire last year. Her late mother Margaret and dad John are pictured beside her (on the right).
A Carrick-on-Suir student whose mother died from cancer in the middle of her Leaving Cert exams last June, has won her campaign for bereaved students to be allowed sit the State exams a few weeks later.
Education Minister Joe McHugh announced this morning that students who suffer the bereavement of a close relative during or in the run up to this year's Leaving Cert exams will be able to take time out and sit alternative papers in July.
He announced the new provision following a review into how students are supported in the wake of the death of a close family member.
It was undertaken in response to a campaign embarked upon by Rhona Butler, a former student of Scoil Mhuire Secondary School in Carrick-on-Suir, whose mother Margaret died on June 13 last year while Rhona was in the middle of her Leaving Cert exams.
Rhona from Carrickbeg, Carrick-on-Suir finished her exams despite the grief and distress she was suffering at the loss of her mother, who had suffered from cancer.
Her experience prompted her to begin a campaign to get the Minister for Education to allow students who suffer a close family bereavement to be allowed take time out and sit alternative exam papers in July.
After receiving only automated responses from her email letters to the Taoiseach Leo Varadker and Mr McHugh, she went on Ryan Tubridy's RTE Radio 1 show and put forward her case, describing how she had to sit her business exam the morning after her mother passed away and sat her German paper on the morning of her mother's wake.
She told The Nationalist in January that sitting the business paper at Scoil Mhuire the morning after her mam's death was a "surreal" experience. "When you are in shock you don't really know what you are doing."
In the wake of her interviews, Minister McHugh spoke to Rhona and promised to carry out a review.
Announcing the changes today, Mr McHugh told RTE the death of a loved one was a deeply traumatic event for any young person that would only be compounded if it occurred in the midst of exams.
"We have a duty to take reasonable measures to support young people who suffer loss at such an important time for them", he said.
Under the new provisions Leaving and Leaving Certificate Applied candidates who miss some of their examinations as a consequence of the death of a close relative at the time of the examinations will be allowed sit an alternative paper in those subjects in early July.
The scheme allows for a student to be absent from exams for a three-day period, commencing from the death of a close relative up to and including the day of the funeral.
The three days do not need to be consecutive.
The scheme defines a close relative as a parent or step-parent or legal guardian or a sibling or grandparent. It also encompasses the death or a son or daughter or spouse or partner.
The Leaving Certificate exams begin next Wednesday, June 5.