The Education Minister has confirmed that the Leaving Certificate exams are to be postponed, while the Junior Certificate exams are to be replaced by school-based assessments early in the school year.
This evening, Minister Joe McHugh confirmed that leaving certificate exams would take place in late July and early August.
The exam timetable will be made available in early June.
Speaking at a briefing this evening, the Minister said: "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. 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.
“Asking Leaving Certificate students and their families to refocus their attention from June to August is not something we do lightly. I know it will not be easy. 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 Education Minister added that 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.
Minister McHugh said the intention was to allow at least two weeks of class time in school, before the Leaving Certificate examinations begin.
Cian Pierce, a Leaving Cert student in Glanmire Community College, told The Echo that pushing out the Leaving Cert until late July or August will "destroy morale and motivation."
He believes that the ever-changing deadline will make students more complacent towards their studies and will slowly kill their concentration.
"They're stretching out the exams to the point that either students just won't care so their grades will drop.
"I'm also really concerned about the mental health toll that this will take on students, pretty much all my peers are already struggling, trying to cope with self-education and the stress of isolation.
"Personally, I think this just showed that they care more about the examinations than the students."
Cian said that while he understands that the Department of Education and the Government want to treat this years' Leaving Cert class the same as any other year, this year is different to any other.
"It just doesn't seem like they're taking the student voice into account," he said.
The Minister also confirmed schools will also remain closed until further notice.
Meanwhile, as part of the changes to the Junior Cycle, he said discussions will take place with teacher unions and school management to allow these examinations, linked Classroom-Based Assessments, Assessment Tasks and project work to be completed as school-based assessments early in the next school year.
“I am grateful for the co-operation shown by all concerned, in what is a very challenging situation for our young people, their families and teachers. I am confident we can continue to work together in a supportive spirit to help secure the best outcomes for students,” the Minister said.
Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor said “The third level institutions look forward to welcoming this year’s Leaving Certificate students who have applied to enter their courses. I appreciate the particular challenges these students have had to face and I welcome the flexible approach indicated by the sector to enabling these students to take up a place in the year ahead.”
The admissions process for higher education, managed by the Central Applications Office (CAO), will operate as closely as possible to the usual timeframe for offers and the entry date for first year students will be delayed.
The Department has asked the Higher Education Authority and the higher education sector to explore ways of assisting access to higher education for students from under-represented groups.