Leaving Cert pupils to get six days to select between exams or accredited grades
Candidates to be placed in pods with 10 students per classroom for written exams
The Leaving Cert candidate self service portal will open from March 10th-16th to allow students to make their choices and select their subject levels. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Leaving Cert students will be given a six-day window from next Wednesday to decide whether they want to take exams or receive accredited grades, or both, in their chosen subjects.
The candidate self-service portal will open from noon on Wednesday (March 10th) until 6pm on Tuesday (March 16th) to allow students to make their choices and select their subject levels. Students will not be able to apply to sit written exams beyond those selected after March 16th.
However, they will have an opportunity at the end of April/early May to withdraw their intention to take written exams or confirm their levels in each subject.
When it comes to accredited grades, the levels selected for subjects – higher, ordinary or foundation – by candidates at the end of April/early May will be “absolutely final” .
This is because teachers are due to enter the formal estimation process for the accredited grades process shortly afterwards.
Candidates opting to sit the written exams will be permitted to change their levels on the day of the exam, as they do in a normal year.
The details are contained in guidance to be issued to schools shortly by the State Examinations Commission (SEC).
SEC has noted that provisional data from schools indicates that the number of candidates selecting higher level in most subjects is higher than normal, while numbers for foundation level maths and Irish are significantly lower.
Schools will be advised to set aside multiple classrooms and other open spaces such as gyms and libraries for this year’s written exams in June. This is to accommodate 2m physical distancing between candidates.
Schools will be asked to create pods of students, where possible, so the same group can remain in the same room for the duration of exams and avoid interaction with others.
There will also be strict limits on numbers permitted to individual rooms. For example, no more than 10 students will be permitted in a standard-sized classroom.
In a large gym which can accommodate up to 72 candidates, for example, schools will be required to ensure students are divided into three groups of 23, with one exam superintendent in each group. These groups must be separated from each other by 4m.
SEC said schools will need to undertake their own risk assessments in relation to rooms without windows that can be opened to assess the suitability of their ventilation.
Any students who are at a very high risk from coronavirus or who are required to self-isolate during the exams will not have the opportunity of sitting a second set of exams.
SEC said these candidates will receive accredited grades, whether or not they opted for them earlier.
Oral exams for languages must be held during the Easter break or shortly afterwards – between March 26th and April 15th, according to the guidance.
They should be undertaken with one of the school’s teachers, wherever possible.
The tests will be conducted by the locally appointed teacher, recorded and returned to SEC for marking.
The practical performance test in music is planned to take place in the second week of the Easter holiday.
The tests will be conducted by examiners appointed by SEC.
Running the tests outside of the school term means there will be fewer personnel and students in the school and more space will be available for ensuring physical distancing between the candidate and the examiner.
SEC has confirmed it will not be possible to proceed with the day-practical exams in construction studies and engineering given public health considerations.
Candidates who sit the exams in these subjects will be graded based on the written and practical coursework components, with marks for the practical skills tests reallocated to the practical coursework.
It will not be possible to proceed with the performance assessment in physical education due to public health considerations.
Candidates who sit the exams in this subject will be graded on the written and physical activity project components, with the marks for the performance assessment reallocated to the physical activity project.
The completion dates for coursework for a range of subjects has also been finalised by SEC, as follows:
LCVP portfolio of coursework – March 12th
Economics – March 15th
Design and communication graphics – March 19th
PE physical activity project – March 22nd
History – April 23rd
Geography – April 23rd
Religious education – April 23rd
Agricultural science – April 23rd
Engineering (project) – May 7th
Politics and society – May 7th
Art – May 20th
Technology – May 27th
Computer science – May 27th
Construction studies (project) – May 28th
Home economics (textile studies elective) – May 28th