Government Must Stop Leaving Cert Brinkmanship

Government are ‘playing brinkmanship’ with leaving cert students of previous years by failing to address the issue of increased points required for 2020 to access third-level.

It is disturbing and unacceptable that the Government has left it so late to address the anxiety of students.

The Minister is attempting to brush aside the real problem by claiming that the Government has made over 5,000 new third-level places available.

I believe this is disingenuous and does not tell the real story. By the Department of Education’s own predictions, 4,184 new places were needed this year to simply meet the increase in demand. So, while there may have been some increase in places, it is not going to be anywhere near enough to address the disadvantage students from previous years face in reapplying.

The fact is that, if the Government does not change course, many of the thousands of students, (over 10 percent of all CAO applicants) who sat their leaving cert before 2020 will be at a significant disadvantage.

It is paramount that we ensure that the system is fair. One student who sat their leaving cert last year and secured 517 points contacted me to say, “It is frankly a terrifying thought to think that the Government would wait until Friday to see how the CAO offers ‘play out’“.

Minister Harris has claimed that he has received legal advice that makes it impossible to ‘ring-fence’ places. We have heard this many times before. When Government is faced with difficult questions, they claim that they are constrained for legal reasons. I have written to the Minister asking for him to publish this legal advice.

Students cannot afford to wait. We need a solution and we need it before Friday. I am again calling on the Minister to look at other ways of ensuring that all students have an equal chance at places. He should urgently consider adjusting grades of prior leaving cert students to account for any grade inflation in 2020. Alternatively, CAO admission points from the year that the student sat the leaving cert could be applied to their application.

Sinn Fein will continue to raise this issue and call on the Government to take real steps to ensure the results are fair and there is a level playing field for all.