This week, leaving certificate students learned that they will receive their results on September 7th with CAO offers coming out four days later – nearly a month after the typical mid-August date.
For many, this delay was merely the final nail in the coffin of a summer of letdowns. However, the disarray of results has also confirmed how choppy the Department of Education’s reaction to the pandemic has been.
The extraordinary circumstances surrounding their exams are indisputable, but the decision to replace written assessments with predicted grades has led to an astonishing amount of uncertainty and worry for students.
Now, those who are moving away for college are faced with the challenge of having to secure accommodation in a matter of weeks – a task made worse by the uncertainty surrounding how much time students will be spending on campus.
Estimates that universities have provided have, for the most part, raised more questions than they have answered.
The Department of Education has hastily washed its hands of these complications: Minister for Education Norma Foley said on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland programme this week that it will be up to universities and colleges to decide whether to defer the return of lectures in order to facilitate first years.
While she said that she understands that leaving certificate students are in a “time of high anxiety”, it will ultimately be the responsibility of third-level institutions to make the decision.
After the fiasco of the past few months, the government’s response has simply not been good enough. Starting college is challenging at the best of times – nevermind in the middle of a pandemic. The government shouldn’t be leaving it up to universities to tie up loose ends it’s leaving.
Incoming freshers now have plenty to ponder: whether they should accept their results and CAO offers or to appeal and redo exams later in the year – and where they will live if they do go to college.
The next few months will undoubtedly throw up countless more challenges and hiccups for freshers. The government’s response so far has left much to be desired.