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‘You are just not listening’: Student campaign to #canceltheLeavingCert2021 gains momentum

by Amanda Cassidy
05th Feb 2021


Ahead of this evening’s meeting to discuss exams, the Teachers Union of Ireland has called for the Leaving Cert to proceed. But stressed students are refusing to be silenced, with #canceltheleavingcert trending once again.

“We can’t turn schools into yet another political football in this game. It’s not fair on our children. We have to look at this carefully in light of the transmission in any given setting and we have to make decisions based on the best interests of our children both from a health and an educational perspective. And it must be based on data as well as the risks.”

These are the words of Dr. Michael Ryan of the WHO speaking last year as the world was getting their collective heads around how to live alongside the virus. And it turned out that we couldn’t. Not yet.

As we continue to ride out this third wave, many are shouting to be heard over the din of the very noisy Irish pandemic response. Ahead of a meeting with the Department of Education with teacher, parent and student representatives this evening to discuss this year’s exams, students are making their voices heard.



Frontline workers want resources, quicker vaccinations. Working parents want a respite from the impossible juggle between work and family commitments. Teachers and SNA’s are not alone in calling for safe environments in which to work. Children with additional needs crave routine. We are cooped up, frightened, and unsure of the path that lies ahead.

But in the last three weeks, one group has been more vocal about the path they want to take. And it doesn’t involve a ‘traditional’ leaving certificate. #CancelTheLeavingCert2021 has been trending across social media platforms like Twitter for the last few weeks, and the frustrated cries of exam candidates 2021 are growing louder.

After what some describe as an inconsistent performance by the Minister for Education, Norma Foley over the course of the pandemic, the issue of schooling has become the highest-pitched out of all the shouts.

According to many of the surveys wheeled out by irate 6th-year students and their supporters predicted grades seem to be the most favorable of all the options.

In their natural online habitat, 17 and 18-year-olds have flooded Twitter with demands to cancel this year’s final school exams citing mental health problems, poor broadband, and safety concerns among the reasons why the State examinations shouldn’t go ahead in their ‘traditional’ format.

We have lost months of education


One Twitter user named Haechan warned the Education Minister yesterday; “Don’t underestimate the students @NormaFoleyTD1 We won’t be risking our lives so you can protect your image instead of doing your job”

Christinaxc_x tweeted: “We have lost MONTHS of education. The amount of students facing serious mental health problems because of the lack of clarity and the fact we’re forced into doing a traditional leaving cert when our year has been disrupted twice is not acceptable”

“Having our future torn away is not fair” wrote another social media user named Carmel McDonagh


“You are not listening to us,” typed someone named Django2070; “Is it that you value the Leaving Cert exam over the livelihoods of the young people of Ireland. Over our well-being?”

It is clear that students are not taking the decision from the government lying down. So far, over 50,000 students had signed the petition to make predicted exams optional in 2021.

We’ve known for many years that the Leaving Certificate is often too inflexible

It is fair to say that we are living through a once-in-a-century event and this is especially true in the world of education.

In a year defined by Covid-19, more flexible solutions are needed. The idea of adaption to survive should resonate across decisions made at State level. Even the Taoiseach, launching the Education Matters Yearbook last month agreed that the Leaving Cert was too rigid.

“We’ve known for many years that the Leaving Certificate is often too inflexible and it uses a very limited range of methods for learning assessment,” Michael Martin said on Monday. “This became even clearer during 2020 when, with no notice and with great pressure on everyone, a new system had to be put in place.”

Never has there been a better opportunity to redesign those things that don’t work as well as they could. The students shouldn’t need to beg, the writing’s on the wall.