Published date: 01 Feb 2022

Returning to Business as Usual is a Missed Opportunity for Leaving Cert Reform

The Children’s Rights Alliance is concerned at today’s media reports that the 2022 Leaving Certificate exam is due to revert to the traditional written exam. This is despite evidence that the written exam causes stress and impacts negatively on the mental health and wellbeing of many young people.

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said, “While potential reform of the Leaving Certificate has been discussed for a number of years, the Covid-19 pandemic placed a spotlight on the issue and forced us to rethink our system of senior cycle education. The Government responded positively in a crisis and made the sensible decision to introduce calculated grades. We’ve seen how successful the hybrid model can be from the point of view of young people sitting the exam. We should listen to them about their lived experience to help determine what is the best system going forward.”

According to the Irish Secondary Schools Union, two out of three Leaving Cert students have called for a hybrid model to continue in 2022.

Tanya Ward continued: “The Government’s decision today will effectively ignore the voices of many young people. From a children’s rights perspective, this decision does not stand up to scrutiny. We need to do what is best for the young people sitting the exam and not take the easiest way out. The Alliance recognises that this is a difficult decision and there are logistics involved, but we had considered that the last two years were laying the building blocks for meaningful reform.”

Leaving Certificate reform must go beyond methods of assessment alone and look to how it can improve the skills, learning and other capacities of the children and young people. In 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called on the State ‘to consider reforming the Leaving Certificate examination with a view to reducing the stress caused to children’.

Ms Ward concluded, “Now we have the opportunity to make the changes necessary to avoid a stressful situation for our young people and to ensure that they reach their full potential in education. Some young people will still choose to sit the written exam but for those for whom it causes untold stress, we should do everything we can to help them put their best foot forward.”


• Tanya Ward, Chief Executive is available for comment on 087 653 1069.

Notes to Editors:
• See Aibhín Bray et al, Post-primary Student Perspectives on Teaching and Learning During Covid-19 School Closures: Lessons learned from Irish Students in schools in a Widening Participation Programme, (Trinity Access and the School of Education 2020) here 
• See results of Irish Secondary Schools Union (ISSU) 2022 survey here
• See National Educational Psychological Service, The Wellbeing and Mental Health of Young People in Ireland: Factors for Consideration for the Leaving Certificate Examination in the context of the Covid-19 Pandemic: Advice from the National Educational Psychological Service here
• See UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s 2016 Concluding Observations or Recommendations to Ireland here

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About the Children’s Rights Alliance
Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 130 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. Further information is available at: or on Twitter, @ChildRightsIRL.

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Emma Archbold

Campaigns and Communications Director