After new indemnity, legal advice on Leaving Cert should be published

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
21 May 2020

With the Government now moving to indemnify teachers and schools from any legal cases, Labour Education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said it is essential that the legal advice received by the Minister on the cancellation of the exam be published.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“The Minister for Education will today seek Cabinet approval for a State indemnity for teachers and schools in the event of legal cases. This raises enormous questions, and also highlights again his failure to publish the advice the Government has received on their alternative plan.

“First, what legal power does the Minister have to offer an indemnity to teachers and principals who participate in a non-statutory scheme that he has organised, in substitution for statutory exams?

“Second, in the absence of a supplementary estimate to cover spending on a new activity, what funds are available to the Minister to organise this non-statutory scheme? The Minister should inform us how much this is projected to cost.

“Two weeks on from the cancellation of the 2020 Leaving Cert exam, there is still no legal clarity on what standing the predicted grades that will now be awarded to students will have.

“If the Government is prepared to indemnify all teachers and schools because of the risk of legal cases being taken it raises serious questions about the legal basis of the exam.

“In response to my questioning in the Dáil the Minister for Education indicated that the advice from the State Exam Commission was that it could not stand over the legality and validity of a leaving certificate that was not comparable to one of any other year. Is this the reason for today’s indemnity?

“As the SEC cannot stand over this year’s process, a new unit is instead being set up in the Department. We need to know what legal status the assessed certificate will have, and if it will be sufficient for applications to public sector jobs such as An Garda Síochána.

“Students need to be assured that their results of Leaving Cert 2020 will have exactly the same status as previous years. Legal questions still remain if the Government will need to bring in legislation to cover the new predicted grading system.

“That is why it is essential that the Minister for Education publish the legal advice that was provided to Government on this – so we can be absolutely assured that the legal criteria is indeed satisfied.”

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