Leaving Cert oral exams could be held online or during Easter

Extra choice in exam papers for candidates in light of potential disruption to school year

  Norma Foley and the Department of Education have said it is their “firm intention” to hold the 2021 State exams with appropriate contingency and public health measures in place. File photograph Nick Bradshaw

Norma Foley and the Department of Education have said it is their “firm intention” to hold the 2021 State exams with appropriate contingency and public health measures in place. File photograph Nick Bradshaw

 

The possibility of holding Leaving Cert oral and practical exams online or holding them during the Easter holidays are among a number of options being considered by the State Examinations Commission.

It is also understood that education authorities will announce details of extra choice to be given to candidates shortly in a number of key subjects in the summer written exams.

This is due to concerns that students affected by disruption to the school year will not have time to complete the curriculum.

The options were outlined in a presentation by the State Examinations Commission during a meeting of an examinations advisory group on Monday, according to sources.

Minister for Education Norma Foley and the Department of Education have said it is their “firm intention” to hold the 2021 State exams with appropriate contingency and public health measures in place.

No decisions have been taken yet, but education sources say a key aim is to ensure exams will take place in as traditional a manner as possible. Further meetings to discuss options are due in January.

A number of education partners are understood to have said the Leaving Cert written exams should be prioritised over the Junior Cert in the coming year due to social distancing challenges.

The traditional Junior Cert written exams were cancelled last year and replaced with in-school assessment.

Among the groups present at Monday’s meeting were representatives of students, parents, teachers, school leadership and management bodies, the State Examinations Commission , the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the Department of Further and Higher Education and National Educational Psychological Service.

All members of the advisory group were invited to share their expertise and experience in relation to the exams.

These discussions will resume when the group next meets in January 2021.

The group was also advised of clarifications to the assessment arrangements for the 2021 state exams which originally issued to schools in August.

In a statement, the Department of Education said these clarifications, and “a small number of adjustments”, take account of comments received from stakeholders and will be sent to schools shortly.

The group was also advised of additional flexibility in the arrangements for the completion of coursework where such measures are required to support students due to Covid-19.

These details will shortly be issued to schools by the State Examinations Commission.

The option of moving oral and practical exams to the Easter period is attractive to some stakeholders on the basis that it could ease pressure sourcing teachers to work as examiners.

Many teachers who currently work in this capacity are retired and are at higher risk if they contract Covid-19.

Schools also say they are under pressure to source substitute teachers due to teachers reporting sick or self-isolating after being labelled as close contacts during term time.

However, many teachers and others are keen to ensure oral and practical exams take place as normal outside the holiday period.

Most education partners are keen to avoid the cancellation of exams and the use of calculated grades, if at all possible.