Postponing Leaving Certificate examinations in Ireland has brought much needed clarity to students, the Education Minister has insisted.
Joe McHugh announced the postponed of June’s scheduled exams to until late July or August.
The Junior Cycle examinations have been cancelled and will be replaced with school-based exams and assessments early in the new school year.
The announcement on Friday afternoon came moments after the Government confirmed the extension of current Covid-19 lockdown measures to May 5.
Schools have been closed since March 12 in Ireland and will remain so as the country continues to battle the coronavirus outbreak.
The postponement of Leaving Certs will result in a delay to the start of the university and college year for first year students.
A timetable for the exams is due to be finalised in June.
“All decisions we are taking in relation to rescheduling exams are based on current public health advice and put the best interests of students first,” said Mr McHugh.
“The welfare of students and that of their families is front and centre in all decision making.
“The final arrangements for the exams, the exam centres, social distancing and other measures will all be determined by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) on foot of public health advice in June.
“I want to thank the SEC for its efforts to put in place these revised arrangements.
“Students and their families have been seeking clarity.
“Today’s announcement addresses that.
“It also provides them with several weeks of advance notice to prepare for the examinations.
“I hope it helps to alleviate some stress being experienced by students and their families at this time.”
In a joint statement, the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS); Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI); Joint Managerial Body (JMB); and National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) said they appreciated the clarity brought by the announcement.
The TUI and ASTI teaching unions said they needed to consider the full implications of rescheduling Leaving Cert exams.
In a joint statement, the unions said they understood the decisions.
“We welcome the fact that the Government is still focused on running the Leaving Certificate, given both its importance and the high level of public trust that it enjoys,” they added.
“We remain committed to serving the best interests of students, as evidenced by the wholehearted engagement of teachers with remote teaching and learning over recent weeks.
“We are conscious of the enormity of the challenges facing our society now, and we are appreciative of the work done by all concerned to meet these challenges.”
ASTI’s standing committee met remotely on Friday evening to discuss the proposals and afterwards expressed “serious concerns” about elements of the plan.
“The ASTI has a number of serious concerns about elements of the announcement and will be seeking clarifications in relation to these,” the union said.
Today I have taken a series of decisions in relation to schools and the state exams.— Joe McHugh (@McHughJoeTD) April 10, 2020
There is no perfect solution. But I believe this is the fairest decision we could take.
We are planning in the best interests of our students and their families.#coronavirus #COVID19 https://t.co/o0aeUWxvBG
Mr McHugh said the decision had not been taken lightly.
“I know it will not be easy,” he said.
“However, I believe it is the fairest way of assessing students and giving them certification of achievement in school and a pathway to higher and further education and training, apprenticeship or work.”
The minister said it said the intention was to allow at least two weeks of class time, in school, before the Leaving Certificate examinations begin.
He added: “Students with special educational needs will be fully supported in sitting the rescheduled Leaving Certificate examinations in line with the reasonable accommodations as already arranged for them.”