Q&A: How will school closures impact on pupils, parents and exams?

Leaving Cert and Junior Cert oral and practical examinations are set to be postponed

Schools are being asked to prioritise supporting exam classes to continue to prepare for State examinations.

Schools are being asked to prioritise supporting exam classes to continue to prepare for State examinations.

 

What is happening with school closures?

All schools, pre-schools and further and higher education settings will shut from Thursday evening until at least March 29th to support efforts to contain the coronavirus threat.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said this move was in line with the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team.

The Government, in conjunction with the public health authorities, will keep the situation under ongoing review. Any change to that date will be communicated widely.

Will this impact on the Junior and Leaving Cert?

Yes. The Leaving Cert and Junior Cert oral and practical examinations are set to be postponed.

They were scheduled to begin in all second-level schools when they resume on Monday, March 23rd, and to run until Friday, April 3rd.

However, schools are not due to reopen until March 29th at the earliest.

These tests comprise the Leaving Cert oral tests in Irish, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Japanese, along with performance tests in Leaving Cert and Junior Cert music. Practical tests in junior-cycle home economics are also due to take place.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh said contingency arrangements were being worked out and new dates will be organised as soon as possible.

What will happen with exams at third level?

This is a decision for individual higher education institutions and most are drawing up alternative arrangements.

UCD, for example, has told students that in most cases (except for a small number of clinical programmes) all assessment, including final exams, will take place “at distance”.

DCU also says its May exams for most students will be replaced with “alternative assessments”. In the case of final year undergraduate students and postgraduate taught students, it says priority is being given to developing specific arrangements for these examinations and assessments.

Other higher education institutions are taking similar measures.

Will my children have homework for the duration of the shutdown?

In order to minimise the impact on teaching and learning, all schools have been asked to continue to plan lessons and, where possible, provide online resources for students or online lessons where schools are equipped to do so.

Most primary schools have given children homework packs for the next two weeks, while many secondary schools are putting assignments and other work online. Pupils were also advised to take their books and learning materials home with them on Thursday.

Will other extra-curricular school events be cancelled for the duration?

In most cases, yes. Holy Communions and Confirmations have been cancelled until further notice. The official advice is that all pupils and students, from pre-school to third level, are urged to practise social distancing, and to minimise physical contact with each other, to help avoid the spread of Covid-19.

This should include minimising social contact, avoiding meeting up and keeping physical space between them. Parents and guardians are urged to support their children to maintain this approach.

Is there a chance closures will extend beyond March 29th?

The Government, in conjunction with the public health authorities, will keep the situation under ongoing review. Any change to that date will be communicated widely.

Schools are due to take a two-week Easter break beginning on April 6th to April 17th, which may influence decisions on further closures.

Trinity’s provost, for example, has told staff and students that it would be wise to allow for the possibility of a longer closure.

Will there be online classes in schools or higher education facilities?

This depends on individual schools and education institutions. Some third-level institutions such as Trinity and UCD have moved their physical lectures to online classes; many other colleges are doing the same. At second level, most schools will not teach classes online but have online learning platforms such as Office 365 or Schoology, where teachers can set assignments for pupils.