Schools told not to use ‘mock’ exams for estimated Leaving Cert grades

Minister confirms no later date available for students unable to sit exams due to Covid-19

 ‘In the majority of cases’ Leaving Cert students will be required to answer fewer questions in this year’s exams. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

‘In the majority of cases’ Leaving Cert students will be required to answer fewer questions in this year’s exams. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Secondary schools and teachers will be advised not to use “mock” exam results when estimating students’ calculated grades under new official guidance.

The State Examinations Commission has finalised a 27-page guidance document which is being sent to schools to assist with preparing for exams, orals and other components.

It states that available class time should focus on maximising opportunities for teaching and learning with students rather than preparing for mock questions.

The guidance also says further choice is to be factored into this summer’s written exams beyond what has already been signalled.

“These further adjustments will aim to reduce the load on students, leaving intact the general overall structure of the written examination papers,” the guidance states.

“In the majority of cases these adjustments will involve reducing the number of questions that students will be required to answer.”

It says the duration of the exams will remain the same as set out in the published timetable, providing students with additional time to read the paper and answer the required number of questions.

Further subject-by-subject guidance in relation to these adjustments will be issued by the State Examinations Commission next month.

Any form of “influence, inducement (including gifts), pressure or coercion” by a parent or student in relation to a student’s marks is prohibited, the guidance states.

“Such contact would be inappropriate, as it could objectively be viewed as an attempt to interfere with the fairness, equality of treatment and objectivity required of teachers and schools in the assigning of estimated marks for the individual student concerned, and for the students in the school as a whole,” the guidance states.

Any attempt to improperly influence the grading process may lead to withholding of results or “more serious consequences”.

It says this aspect is being considered further and detailed information on consequences of such behaviour will be published as soon as possible.

As a result, the holding of formal sixth-year parent-teacher meetings is not being advised.

An individual parent-teacher meeting may be sought and arranged in “exceptional circumstances only”.

The guidance also confirms that it will not be possible to hold practical skills tests – known as day practicals – in construction studies or engineering or the performance assessment in PE for public health reasons.

In these subjects the proportion of marks normally allocated to these components will be reallocated to the project component.

In the case of music, planning is being advanced for revised arrangements in respect of the conduct of the practical performance component of the examination which it is hoped can take place in the Easter period.

Oral examinations in Irish and modern foreign languages will take place in schools during the period from March 26th until April 15th.

They may be conducted under exam conditions by a teachers qualified in the relevant subject, appointed by the management of the school.

It says the teacher may be a suitably qualified member of staff of the school, a neighbouring school, or another suitably qualified teacher engaged by the school.

Teachers carrying out this task will be remunerated by the State Examination Commission under arrangements.

The guidance also confirms that an online portal will open on March 8th through which students will be able to indicate whether they wish to opt for accredited grades in a subject, or an exam, or both.

Minister for Education Norma Foley, meanwhile, has confirmed that there will be no alternative or later sitting of the 2021 Leaving Cert exams for students affected by Covid-19.

In recent times there has been a second sitting of the exams for bereaved students and the option of extending this to students who are forced to self-isolate for public health reasons had been under consideration.

However, in response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Ms Foley said students who are unable to attend their exams in June will be able to avail of accredited grades.

These grades – similar to last year’s calculated grades – will be based on a combination of teachers’ estimates and a standardisation process.

Mr Ó Laoghaire said the move was “grossly unfair” to students who risk missing exams through no fault of their own.

“This year, in particular, the students sitting exams will have put in a huge effort to do their orals, practicals and study for exams, despite having the option of just taking accredited grades,” he said.

“This decision will punish students for following public health advice. The Minister needs to think again about giving these students a second chance.”