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Education Minister expects State exams to go ahead in June

Oral exams were due to begin on 23 March but have been cancelled.

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Education Minster Joe McHugh speaks to the media at a briefing about coronavirus (Niall Carson/PA)

Education Minster Joe McHugh speaks to the media at a briefing about coronavirus (Niall Carson/PA)

Education Minster Joe McHugh speaks to the media at a briefing about coronavirus (Niall Carson/PA)

Education Minister Joe McHugh has said that despite the oral and practical State exams being cancelled, he expects the main written exams to go ahead as normal in June.

He said: “We are still working on the basis that the Leaving Cert will go ahead as normal in June.”

Junior and Leaving certificate oral and practical examinations have been cancelled.

All students who were due to take these tests will be awarded full marks for this portion of the exam.

The decision was taken in light of the closure of schools as a result of the Covid-19 virus and it will be implemented by the State Examinations Commission (SEC).

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Journalists observe social distancing as Education Minister Joe McHugh answers questions (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr McHugh said: “This is a difficult time for all. Students are facing a challenging period out of school and our decision on this element of the exams is being taken with their best interests at heart.

“It is the fairest response we could take in the circumstances. It guarantees that no student will score less than they would have if schools had been operating as normal.

“We have seen a new emphasis on remote learning amid the uncertainty about the impact of Covid-19 and the closure of all schools. I hope this decision will ease some of the pressure that students are feeling and allow them to focus more clearly on completing project work and preparing for written exams.”

Mr McHugh said he expects Covid-19 to peak in mid-April.

“We’re still focused on written exams going ahead. We don’t have a baseline in terms of certainty. Ideal scenario would be the virus to peak in mid-April for students to come back after that. But it’s all based on hypothetical scenarios.”

Mr McHugh paid tribute to students for showing resilience during the school closures.

He said: “The last thing I wanted to do was put extra pressure on students when these exams were due to start next week. Students are under enough stress – they can now focus on the written aspect.”

The change to the 2020 State examinations means all students who were due to take oral and practical performance tests in the following subjects will be given full marks for this part of the examination:

– Oral tests in Leaving Certificate Irish and the modern languages of French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Japanese.

– Practical performance tests in Leaving Certificate Music.

– Practical performance tests in Junior Certificate Music and Home Economics.

Mr McHugh said his department is working as quickly as possible to ensure students who need school meals can get them.

He said he has asked officials to look at providing meals for children within the new Covid-19 guidelines as schools remain shut.

“We can be creative around this. A lot of restaurants are showing creativity. Let’s look at what we can do,” he said.

“Hopefully we will be in a position to make an announcement on that.”

PA