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Leaving Cert exams should go ahead – Westport Principal


HOPEFUL The Principal of Rice College in Westport, Michael Rabbette.

Rice College Principal urges better communication for teachers by the Department of Education

Áine Ryan

THE Leaving Cert may still be in limbo, but one secondary-school principal believes the traditional exams should be held, with some necessary modifications.  
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday, Michael Rabbette, the Principal of Rice College,  confirmed that the school’s 70 Leaving Cert students are working very well through their Google Classroom platform, enhanced by the fact that the teachers have been trained in PDST Technology.
“This online training for our teachers has been excellent, I have to say, and given them great confidence in the delivery of classes. All the lessons are prerecorded, and it allows the students to do a bit of farming during the day, if they are living in a rural area, and attend their classes in the evenings,” Michael Rabbette said.
He said the return on homework and assignments is ‘excellent’ and communications from students through their class heads is positive.  
Mr Rabbette has children in both primary and secondary schools, and, indeed, one of them is back home from college whilst his wife is pursuing a Master’s degree. He says he is very aware of the anxieties that students are experiencing and how home-schooling is working.
“We have also supplied students with devices if they need them or there are a few living in one household,” he said.
Asked about his preferences regarding how the Leaving Cert would be rolled out, he said:
“I’m hoping the exams will happen in as traditional a way as possible. The whole thing of the calculated-grades fiasco has gone on for a full year now. The circumstance are different this year, as teachers don’t have the same information because this year’s Leaving Certs were out of school last year, so there is a lack of information on grades to assess them from their 5th Year.”  
“I really hope the Department of Education and the State Exams Commission can deliver the Leaving Cert with elements of predictive grades for orals and practicals. We are still exploring doing some element of mock exams when the students return after the mid-term break. This will help teachers assess them.”
Rice College has a Special Education Unit which will reopen on a phased basis also next week, after the mid-term break. Part-time teachers have been giving one-to-one classes to these pupils, whilst the pastoral care team has engaged with parents and families through online media.
Meanwhile, Michael Rabbette has one significant message for the Department of Education:
“It is disappointing that school principals are discovering what is happening through social media and newspapers like The Irish Times. We should be treated a little bit better than that.”

Government decision
SPEAKING over the weekend, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said there was no deadline for a decision on this year’s Leaving Cert. However, Taoiseach Mícheal Martin said last week there would be clarity on the matter this week. On a positive note, ASTI, one of the secondary school teachers’ unions, rejoined talks after a row over how the exams would be configured.