Leaving Certificate exams get under way this morning, as the class of 2021 becomes the second to undergo the process during a pandemic.
Students will sit down to English Paper One from 9.30am, with more than 5,000 exam centres in use to allow for social distancing.
Sixth year students this year have the option of sitting the written exams, accepting calculated grades or choosing both, on a subject-by-subject basis. They will be credited with the better of the two results.
Almost 90 per cent of the 61,500 Leaving Cert candidates have opted to sit written exams, with 52,000 registering to sit at least one.
Clive Byrne, director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), has urged students to focus on their physical and mental wellbeing ahead of the exams.
“As school leaders, we would like to encourage our Leaving Cert students not to focus on the ‘points race’ or to be drawn into comparisons with their peers. There are many routes to your desired career and no one pathway or college course trumps another,” he said.
“Covid has presented many challenges for our traditional education system, however, it has also created opportunities.
“The recent creation of multiple new apprenticeship schemes and technical programmes in our third level institutions offer additional education and training pathways to our young people, more so than ever before.”
Following 14 months of school closures and remote learning, Mr Byrne said students should be “immensely proud” of reaching the Leaving Cert milestone.
“The class of 2021 will go down in the history books as one which faced and overcame unprecedented challenges due to Covid-19. School leaders, teachers, their families and their peers are immensely proud of their achievements thus far and we wish them every success in their exams and all their future endeavours,” he said.
He added: “The past 14 months have seen school closures, remote learning and Covid-19 precautions that affected every part of the school community, not least so, our sixth year students.
“We must commend their resilience and their commitment to their education throughout and acknowledge that the circumstances they found themselves in have created a cohort of well-rounded and compassionate young adults ready to make a positive contribution to Irish life.”