REACTION: Secondary schools in Tipperary now facing into unknown territory

Thoughts?

Eamon Lacey

Reporter:

Eamon Lacey

Tipperary

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Principals at four Clonmel secondary schools have reacted to the decision of the government to cancel the Leaving Certificate.

Principal of Clonmel High School Karen Steenson
“It has been a very difficult time for our 6th Year cohort. The uncertainty, the worries about their future and the feeling like time was slipping away completely out of control. The DES decision now gives clarity to our students but a large number of questions still remain. There are a number of issues that have yet to be addressed and many of them were asked of me last Friday. Unfortunately I didn't have the answers. Last Friday the rug was ripped from underneath our 6th Years and in an instant their school days were over. No rites of passage, no graduation, no fish heads down the radiators!! No genuine thank yous and feelings of sadness just shock, emptiness and questions. I know that teachers all over the country have as many questions about how to engage in this process in a fair and professional manner because these are their students that they have supported and guided and invested in over the last two years. I am fully confident that they want to do their best and do justice to their students. There has been lots of talk in the media about what's best for our 6th Yr cohort and how this is affecting their mental health. I believe that if the media really care about the mental health of our young people they will forgo the speculation and misleading reports/ articles and allow the teaching profession and the Department of Education to make the best of an unprecedented and tragic situation.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our 6th Year students for their contribution to the growth, development and heart of CBS High School over the last number of years. The students are always at the centre of what we do and Covid 19 will not change that.”

Principal of Presentation Secondary School Clonmel Michael O Loughlin
“ I was disappointed and gutted for our students and teachers when the Minister announced the decision on Friday to cancel the Leaving Cert for the class of 2020.Both teachers and students have worked so hard over the last two years,My preferred option is for the Leaving Cert to proceed in the normal manner, unfortunately, this is not the case now. I think the Department of Education need to release the medical advice that they received regards the cancellation.
The Leaving Cert is known for its fairness and integrity worldwide,the new process is now a huge challenge for all schools.At the moment,all education partners are studying the document released by the Department of Education on Friday,There are a number of clarifications needed for schools,hopefully,we will receive those answers over the coming days.
It has been a fractured and difficult year for 2020 Leaving Cert class but we now must ensure that the new process achieves fairness and equity for all students.
I am concerned that if we cant hold a Leaving Cert in late July/August,how can we open the schools in September for our whole school community.It is important that parents are aware of this fact.Our present fifth year students have lost ground regards their course too and it is important the Department recognise this issue for the Leaving Cert class of 2021 as well.
For the moment,we must concentrate on engaging with the new process so our girls in the Leaving Cert class of 2020 can progress to the next stage of their lives.I believe in the integrity and professionalism of our teachers and I am very confident that schools will ensure the best outcome for their students”.

Principal of Caelcholaiste Cheitinn and Colaiste Chluain Meala John McCarthy
The decision by the Minister of Education to postpone the Leaving Certificate came as a huge disappointment to the staff and students of the schools.
I sincerely hope that we get more information in the coming days about the format that the ‘calculated grades’ will take. I hope that there will be total transparency, equity and integrity in the new system.
In our two schools, we have always seen the Leaving Certificate as a 5 or 6 year project. Preparation for the exams did not just happen this year, this has been an ongoing process. For the last couple of years, these students have heard very little other than the importance of the Leaving Certificate. It has been taken away from them very suddenly. The Leaving Certificate has always been hyped. Because of the situation that we have found ourselves in this year, that hype has been multiplied exponentially. Having spoken to our students, I understand the pressure that they felt. I hope that they will now be removed from the microscope they found themselves under.
I would like to publicly applaud them for the resilience and fortitude they have shown in very extreme circumstances. I would also like to thank them for the very fine contribution that they have made to their respective schools. We look forward to celebrating their future success with them. I would also like to thank their teachers for the guidance, friendship, expertise and professionalism. They have gone above and beyond the call of duty for their students.
Principal of Loreto Secondary School Clonmel Anne McGrath
The news that the Leaving Certificate Examinations for 2020 would not take place and that the school year for our Leaving Cert Class was coming to such an abrupt end brought mixed emotions - anger, relief and confusion. On 12th March all students and teachers were directed by the Minister to leave their school buildings by 6pm that day, but school, as in teaching and learning, has continued unabated in Loreto Clonmel since then. The students and teachers have engaged in live classes, prepared and corrected assignments revised the work they have been doing over the past two years, all in the belief that as the Taoiseach said the Leaving Cert would happen ‘by hook or by crook’. Our students, who to us are not just statistics, are now and always will be Loreto Clonmel students and our Class of 2020. They all must be commended for the diligence, focus and indeed enthusiasm with which they have been engaging with their school and their teachers. Yet, this has not come as any surprise to us because these students have been at the heart of student activity and leadership, school improvement and school success over the course of their years in Loreto Clonmel. So, I thank them for their outstanding contribution to our school during their time with us.
We thank their parents for the support they have given the students which has helped to keep them focussed and motivated during this demanding time for them.
We now face into unknown territory for all as we look at the new area of calculated grades and as this was only announced on Friday, we await clear guidance and direction from the Department for Education and Skills. We will continue to support students during the coming months as the cancellation of exams is just one element of Leaving Cert 2020. The students will still move through CAO Change of Mind, Results Day and College Offers. We look forward to being part of all of this as they move onto the next exciting phase of their lives.
Anne Mc Grath, Principal, Loreto Clonmel.