State exams may be delayed until late summer or autumn

Government considers options as Covid-19 restrictions unlikely to be lifted by June 3rd

In a recent online survey, 49 per cent of Leaving Cert students were in favour of cancelling the June exams and using their coursework to decide their final grades. Photograph: Eric Luke

In a recent online survey, 49 per cent of Leaving Cert students were in favour of cancelling the June exams and using their coursework to decide their final grades. Photograph: Eric Luke

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State exams may now be held in late summer or autumn as the Government believes it is unlikely that Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted in time for the usual June start date.

Students have been urged to continue with their studies as senior officials in the Department of Education consider a range of contingency options due to the coronavirus crisis.

One senior source said it was now looking more likely that the exams would be held at the tail-end of the summer as restrictions were unlikely to be lifted in time for the June 3rd written exams date.

Another option being explored by the Government is predictive marking but there are growing concerns about the proposal. “We have no experience of doing that in Ireland. There are no guidelines, no pilot done,” a senior source said.

Concerns have also been raised about what recourse would be available for students who are disappointed with their results given a candidate may know the teacher, or the teacher could be a family friend or even a member of the family.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh has indicated that he wants to see students avail of at least two weeks’ class time before they sit their exams. The National Public Health Emergency Team is due to meet on Friday to consider the current restrictions in place to tackle Covid-19. Major changes to the restrictions currently in place are not anticipated.

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After the meeting, it is expected that Mr McHugh will be in a position to provide clarity on the State exams.

On Wednesday, a senior official in the Department of the Taoiseach said the Government was focused on running both State exams.

Assistant secretary general Liz Canavan said: “We know that students and their families need clarity on this and we know that you are feeling a lot of pressure.

“We are asking you to keep studying and to keep focused. We are working on providing you with answers in relation to the exams as soon as possible. Contingency plans are under consideration and all decisions will be based on public health advice and what happens in relation to current restrictions.”

Meetings

A meeting took place last week between officials at the Department of Education and representatives of the Irish Second Level Students’ Union (ISSU) and it is understood further meetings are planned with stakeholders.

A recent online survey of 47,000 Junior and Leaving Cert students carried out by the ISSU found that 49 per cent of Leaving Cert students were in favour of cancelling the June exams and using their coursework to decide their final grades.

The second most preferred option was to proceed with exams in June while observing social distancing.

While Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said last week that the Leaving and Junior Certificate would go ahead “by hook or by crook”, this year’s examinations have already been affected by the public health crisis.

Oral and practical tests for both sets of exams were cancelled by the Minister for Education last month. Students who were due to take these tests will be awarded full marks in that portion of the exam.

Meanwhile, third-level institutions will not be holding written, oral or practical assessments in examination centres during the coronavirus emergency.

Universities and colleges have finalised alternative assessment arrangements with options including online exams, written assignments or rescheduling. Students who are not in a position to participate in alternative assessments will not be penalised and will have the opportunity to complete their studies at a later time.

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