Tweaks to State exams next year as a Covid-19 contingency

Tweaks to State exams next year as a Covid-19 contingency
The 2021 State exams will be adjusted to take the pandemic and its possible impacts into account.

The State examinations are to be adjusted for 2021 to account for the difficulties faced by students who lost months of time in their classrooms due to the ongoing global pandemic.

Leaving Cert and Junior Cert exams next summer will be adjusted to give students a greater choice of questions in certain subjects. This includes changes to exam papers in subjects like English, Irish, Maths, Biology, Chemistry, French and Spanish. 

This follows calls to accommodate students due to sit their exams next year, who are worried due to losing out on class time since March. Changes to the 2021 exams will take into account this “loss of learning” felt by students, according to the guide on assessment changes for the coming year, published by the Department of Education on Friday. 

Changes to the exam papers mean the familiar structure of the exams remains "intact" while at the same time adding in additional choices, it added. There will be no changes to the lengths of Leaving Cert exams, and subjects with project briefs will see these issued at least four weeks earlier than normal. 

Subjects with course work completion deadlines typically later in the school year will now be asked to submit this work two weeks earlier than normal as a "contingency measure." 

"In this context, teachers are encouraged to plan and undertake these projects as early as possible in the programme of study," it said.

Minister Norma Foley also announced today that the parents of secondary school students who decide not to send their child to school on the school bus can claim an allowance. Picture: Julien Behal
Minister Norma Foley also announced today that the parents of secondary school students who decide not to send their child to school on the school bus can claim an allowance. Picture: Julien Behal

The changes follow discussions between the department, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). As schools determine the pace of learning for students in their schools, no "centrally prescribed adjustment" of the curriculum and courses of study would be effective for students, the department said in a statement. 

"The most appropriate way to reflect and take account of the challenges for students that have occurred in 2019/20, and may occur in 2020/21, is to incorporate adjustments to the certificate examinations in 2021."

Meanwhile, the parents of secondary school students who decide not to send their child to school on the school bus can claim an allowance of up to €25.50 per week, the Department of Education confirmed. This comes as it continues discussions with Bus Eireann to secure the additional buses and staff needed to maintain social distancing on the school bus service for older children. The grant to eligible parents is available at a maximum of €5.10 per day.

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