Decision on State exams: Two Leaving Cert options and no Junior Cert

Decision on State exams: Two Leaving Cert options and no Junior Cert

Written, coursework, oral and practical performance examinations will be held and a corresponding process of grades accredited by State Examinations Commission will be available to students.

A decision on the State examinations has been made by the Department of Education with two options for the Leaving Certificate and no Junior Certificate for 2021.

Written, coursework, oral and practical performance examinations will be held and a corresponding process of grades accredited by State Examinations Commission will be available to students.

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD confirmed that Leaving Certificate 2021 examinations will proceed on Wednesday.

The decision follows intensive engagement with education stakeholders bilaterally and through the Planning for State Examinations 2021 Advisory Group and sub-group.

The timetable for the written examinations in June will be published tomorrow by the State Examinations Commission.

For those choosing to take the Leaving Certificate exams, oral examinations will be held during the Easter vacation or shortly after. Coursework will proceed in subjects where these form a normal part of the examination.

Additional time will be provided by the SEC for completion of this work. In some subjects, the holding of practical examinations will not be possible given public health considerations and this will be advised as soon as possible. Details of revised schedules will be issued to schools in the coming weeks.

The Minister’s strongly held view is that students must be afforded the choice as to whether to sit the examinations, including the oral and coursework components, as it would be entirely unfair to students to require them to participate in these elements, given the disruption in learning which has occurred.

The oral and coursework components of the examinations will not form part of the Accredited Grade process.

Further details and guidance on both processes will be provided to schools and students and publicised widely over the coming weeks, as these become available.

Minister Foley said: “All stakeholders have worked extremely hard to get to this point. I have listened carefully to all, and we have worked together to find solutions. Students and parents have been clear on the need for both clarity and choice which I believe this decision gives them.

“I am conscious that many students are concerned that they have not covered the full curriculum for their subjects in class, due to the interruption of in-person learning caused by the pandemic.

“Everyone wants a system that is fair and that provides the opportunity for real progression for students.

All aspects of staging the examinations will be guided by public health advice and schools will be supported and given clear guidance on the staging of the examinations.

Cork TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has welcomed the clarity following today’s announcement. “By and large it is positive there is clarity which was long overdue and there is a choice for students. I am pleased for the students as they have been under immense pressure. Students were looking for a choice and there was resistance to it, so I’m pleased it is on the table.

“There are still issues we need more clarity on. In my view, it would be better if they were provided with their calculated grade before they sit the exam. We will ask the Minister for more information on that. We also need to learn lessons from last year and in particular with regards to the algorism.” The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education and Skills hopes this year’s Junior Cert students will get a qualification following their work over the last three years. “It seemed inevitable that their exams were going to be cancelled. It is important they get a qualification that stands up to scrutiny and carries authority. We need more detail on this,” he added.

Cork Life Centre Director Don O’Leary has huge sympathy for the Junior Cert students. “

For a minority of young people the Junior Certificate is their last exam and could possibly be the only exam they ever do. A big issue is that a minimum requirement to start an apprenticeship is the Junior Certificate. What happens now? These pupils have spent the last three years in school working towards the Junior Cert. What about the pupils who are not academic and need the certificate before they begin the next chapter in their lives? This needs to be sorted.” 

 With regards to the Leaving Certificate, Mr O’Leary still can’t understand the lack of forward planning from officials in anticipation of public health restrictions. “There was no Plan A or B and they knew this situation would develop. We are back to where we were last year. They have added a few facets to it, but it is technically the same as last year. I am worried about the students as they have missed five months over the last year. If they go back in March, they will have a very short timeframe before they commence their exams in June. We are not really releasing the pressure for the students,” he added.

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