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Further clarity over Leaving Cert exams expected on Tuesday

Last year’s exams were replaced with predicated grades.

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Simon Coveney has urged clarity to ‘address stress levels’ (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Simon Coveney has urged clarity to ‘address stress levels’ (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Simon Coveney has urged clarity to ‘address stress levels’ (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Further clarity on how Leaving Certificate exams will be held this year is expected to be given on Tuesday, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has said.

Members of the Cabinet sub-committee on education were meeting on Monday to discuss options regarding the Leaving Certificate.

Ministers were also discussing schools reopening and childcare.

Simon Coveney said that Minister for Education Norma Foley is expected to bring a number of recommendations to Government on Tuesday.

He told RTE’s Today with Claire Byrne programme: “I’ve spoken to many, many families who want certainty around the exams.

We are anxious to make decisions a lot earlier this year, so we can hopefully address the stress levels in people's homesSimon Coveney

“We did learn lessons from last year that we have got to give as much time as possible and as much certainty as possible for students and their families to prepare for exams or some alternative to that.

“That’s why we are anxious to make decisions a lot earlier this year, so we can hopefully address the stress levels in people’s homes linked to exams and future prospects for students going to college and so on.

“Hopefully we will be able to give some clarity on that tomorrow.”

The Government has been facing mounting pressure to make a decision on whether to press ahead with the year’s Leaving Cert in its usual format.

Last year’s exams were replaced with predicated grades.

Among the options being considered is to give students a choice between a written exam and calculated grades.

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Norma Foley is expected to make recommendations on Tuesday (Niall Carson/PA)

Norma Foley is expected to make recommendations on Tuesday (Niall Carson/PA)

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Norma Foley is expected to make recommendations on Tuesday (Niall Carson/PA)

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) said the Government should press ahead with the exams, however they have called for modified papers.

On Friday, Ms Foley met with ASTI representatives to discuss the Leaving Cert and the reopening of schools.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) reiterated its support for holding the 2021 Leaving Certificate examinations.

The union said it does not believe that a system of calculated grades or similar will reduce stress and anxiety in the school community and expressed concerns about the lack of data on which teachers’ estimated marks could be based compared to last year’s process.

TUI president Martin Marjoram said: “We fully acknowledge the high levels of stress and anxiety in school communities, especially among those students who are due to take the state examinations this year.

“However, we are concerned that a premature decision could be made without full exploration of feasible options.

“We believe there are enormous difficulties attached to the proposal that the class of 2021 be offered a choice in terms how they wish to be assessed, and we are reiterating our strong view that the fairest, most equitable option remains the holding of suitably modified and adapted Leaving Certificate examinations, which must take account of the second components of assessment such as orals, practical and project work.”

On Sunday, Professor Philip Nolan said that the country is progressing towards a place where the phased reopening of education can be considered.

The head of Nphet’s epidemiological modelling advisory group said Ireland could see a drop to 200-400 new cases of Covid-19 a day by the end of February.

“I think we can say given the huge progress that we have made as a community in suppressing the virus, we’re now approaching a level of disease in the community where it would be safe to think about an appropriately phased, cautious reopening of education,” Professor Nolan said.

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