2 Nov 2021

AONTAS' Written Submission on Leaving Certificate Reform

In October 2021, AONTAS was invited to make a written submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science regarding the Committee’s examination of Leaving Certificate Reform. This is a vital topic, particularly with regard to shaping a more equitable Leaving Certificate. AONTAS consulted with a number of stakeholders to ensure that our submission reflected those most educationally disadvantaged.

AONTAS' written submission draws on the experience of adult learners who left school early and the lessons gained from successful pedagogical approaches to educational equality within the adult and community learning sector to shed light on the Leaving Certificate Reform.

We also focus on the Leaving Certificate with regard to two areas: as a means to certify the end of secondary school and secondly as a means to allocate places for third-level education. Within these two separate functions; however, higher education access has the preeminent purpose of the Leaving Certificate displacing the main function. We argue these functions maintain social stratification to privilege middle class students and uphold inherent inequalities and make recommendations based on our research and over 50 years of experience in the field of educational equality.

Recommendations for Review of the Leaving Certificate Based on Learner Feedback and AONTAS Member Consultations

Access, Equality and Well Being Supports (including assessment)

1.       Meeting Basic Needs

Student supports including, travel costs, food costs, financial costs of all materials covered.

2.       Support to Navigate the Education System

Guidance must be a core foundation/support for all learners. It should be a core stand-alone structure that supports learners from a much younger age and include all pathway options including FET

3.       Fostering Social Capital, Connection and Belonging

Inclusive curricula and pedagogy that draws on good practice in adult education and recognises the lived experiences of all learners and fosters critical thinking This must move away from the ‘banking-model’ of rote learning

4.       Supporting Wellness to Learn

Mental health and wellbeing supports

5.       Encouraging New Learners to Engage

Re-engage students who left school early through outreach, guidance and a range of options to achieve the Leaving Certificate

6.       Curricula, Terminal Exam and Continuous Assessment

Higher and Further Education Requirements, Vocational Options and Career Paths

7.       Recognition for Prior Learning as a tool for access to HE (including a national policy to ensure fairness across all HEIs)

8.      Higher Education Links Scheme (HELS) scoring of FET awards for accessing higher education. The NFQ Level 5/6 qualifications do not have the same weighting as the Leaving Certificate. The maximum of 120 credits for these awards results in a total of 390 points. This needs to be rectified for fairness

9.       Connected and formalise pathways to HE in all ETBs

10.     Strengthen formalised relationships between HE sector and school

11.     Leaving Certificate is no longer the sole entry route option in HE

For More Information 

You can access AONTAS' Written Submission here