Coronavirus: Call for clarity on future of State exams to ease students’ anxiety

Contingency plans for Junior and Leaving Certs being worked on, department says

School disruption: “Whatever is put in place will need to meet the need of this year’s sixth-year students.”

School disruption: “Whatever is put in place will need to meet the need of this year’s sixth-year students.”

 

School management bodies have urged the Department of Education to provide greater clarity over the future of the State exams in an effort to ease students’ anxiety levels.

Education partners took part in a conference call with senior department officials on Wednesday and were told that work was ongoing on contingency plans for the exams.

One source at the meeting said the possibility of prioritising the Leaving Cert exam over the Junior Cert was floated as one possible option.

“There was also a view among some partners that orals and practicals, while important, may not be as vital as the written exams,” said a source, who declined to be named.

“If there are delays, it is not the end of the world, but whatever is put in place will need to meet the need of this year’s sixth-year students.”

A spokesman for the department said it is continuing to engage with the State Examinations Commission (SEC) on contingency planning in relation to the State exams.

“The SEC will continue to monitor the timetable for all elements of the State examinations in the context of any potential extension of the enforced school closures,” he said.

Annual enrolments

“All decisions in relation to State exams and wider operational matters relating to schools will be taken in consultation with all of Government and communicated at the earliest opportunity to students, parents and the education sector, as well as the general public.”

Wednesday’s meeting with education partners is understood to be the first of many that will focus on practical issues such as enrolments for the coming academic year and how to support teaching and learning online.

The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union, meanwhile, has also contacted the department asking for clarity for exam students and for decisions surrounding the exams to be made as soon as possible.

It said it was a particularly difficult time for students in exam years who would have been preparing for oral tests and working on projects at this time.

“Student welfare during this time should be of top priority and keeping students updated and informed in a reasonable timeframe is an essential element of this,” the union said in a statement.

“The ISSU will endeavour to ensure that students as key stakeholders in their education are consulted and included in any decisions to be made regarding their education in the coming weeks and months.”

‘Not disadvantaged’

The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals also said greater clarity and an assurance that students would not lose out were important messages that students needed to hear.

“Certainly, a statement from the SEC setting out the options would enable everyone to put their heads together and come together to work out viable solutions, while making the point that Leaving Cert students will not be disadvantaged in any way compared to other year,” he said.

“In many instances, most of the course work has been completed and students are revising. So, the hope is appropriate arrangements can be put in place for the Leaving Cert.”

In the UK, meanwhile, the possibility of delaying exams until September is being examined, though officials there have also said that no decisions have been made. Education sources in Ireland say any decisions will be based on public health advice, though they did not rule out this possibility.