The Leaving Certificate will run into a fourth week for up to 4,000 students from next year under plans to avoid dozens of teenagers having to sit three exams in a single day.
In a new longer timetable published by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) yesterday, students of eight subjects will have to return to schools in the final week of June for their last exams.
According to the SEC, an average of 78 Leaving Certificate students have had to take three exams in a single day over the past five years. Education Minister Joe McHugh said the new arrangements are designed to minimise such clashes and promote the wellbeing of students doing exams.
The subjects being pushed into the last week of June have a wide range of student numbers, from Latin - which was taken by just 59 students this year - to technology which had 1,534 Leaving Certificate entrants last June.
The final exams next summer will now be on the morning of Tuesday, June 25, when Arabic, Japanese and politics & society will be taken. The following subjects will be examined on Monday, June 24: Italian, Russian (both in the morning), classical studies, Latin, and technology (all in the afternoon).
From 2020, when physical education and computer studies are examined for the first time, exams may also be scheduled on the Tuesday afternoon but subjects involved will be decided nearer the time.
Under SEC rules, students forced by timetable clashes to sit three exams in a day get only a half-hour break in late afternoon after their second paper is completed. Such breaks are supervised to ensure no information about their delayed exam paper can be obtained from other students, social media or other sources.
There may still be some clashes that require smaller numbers of students to take three exams in a single day. But Mr McHugh said he is confident the number will be significantly reduced, and the SEC will continue to be mindful of changes in students’ subject choices and ways of setting the timetable that minimises clashes and limit unnecessary stress.
“From talking to Leaving Cert students, I hear how the exams play on their minds and any changes that we can make to ease that are really welcome,” the minister said.
To facilitate the longer spread of the exams across two additional days, other subjects are also being moved from slots in which they typically appeared in previous years on the Leaving Certificate timetable. Agricultural science will move from a Monday morning to an afternoon, but accounting, design and communication graphics, economics and agricultural economics will all be held a day or two days later than usual.
The Department of Education said additional costs of an extra two days of exams have yet to be finalised, but they will be incurred by the SEC and by areas of the department, such as school transport. However, schools are also likely to seek extra funding for additional costs such as cleaning or caretaking work associated with operating exam centres longer.
The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) welcomed the changes, on which it said it has worked extensively with the department to try and reduce the unncessary burden and stress on students facing three exams in one day.