Speaking in the Dail today Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD has called for immediate clarity from the government on the Leaving Cert 2021. He has also called for the reopening of special schools and for extra attention to be paid to those from disadvantaged areas. The deputy was speaking in the Dáil this afternoon. He said:

“The political management of Leaving Cert 2020 was a lesson in chaos. Last year, decisions were made and reversed in relation to education on a weekly basis. It feels like we are back to square one. Leaving cert students are facing untold stress and anxiety in the past few weeks in large part due to the chaos is political decision making. Months of class was lost last year. A month so far this year. I know of a student sitting in his back garden, on his laptop in the cold, because it was the only place where he could get a strong internet connection. There is some debate about whether or not exams should go ahead this year. It is not fair to leave students in the dark. They need to know the government’s plan and they need to know it now. ”

Deputy Tóibín continued:. I also want to put on the record my opposition to the closure of special schools. Joanne Murphy, an Aontú colleague of mine from Cork has made headlines in recent days when she spoke about her experience with her 15-year-old son who has autism. She doesn’t know how to tell him that the schools were not opening, for she knows how it will break his heart. She said, and I quote: “The last lockdown his anxiety levels shot through the roof. He went from being happy and easy going child to hitting and repetitive talking”. Thousands of parents are experiencing heart breaking regression happen before their eyes daily.”

“The other sector I’m very concerned about is children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Education offers them a lifeline in life. I worry too, about children at risk from abuse. The number of referrals to tusla went down during the last lockdown. This is because schools and teachers are best placed to notice the warning signs and make a referral to tusla. Domestic violence, mental ill health and drug/alcohol abuse are all on the increase in families across the country. Many children were left in this middle of really difficult situations. When making a decision will you do so in partnership with all the stakeholders, with teachers, unions, parents and students? Why was special Education and education for children from disadvantaged backgrounds closed? Whatever the stance, when will Students have clarity on the Leaving cert?”, concluded Tóibín.