Group tasked to plan state exams to meet today

Group tasked to plan state exams to meet today

This week, Simon Harris, the Minister for Higher and Further Education, said he would like to have plans for the Leaving Cert by the end of the month. 'We're going to need to map out exactly how that's going to happen' Picture Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The group tasked with contingency planning for the state exams is due to meet today to discuss arrangements for this year's students who have spent almost a school term learning remotely. 

Between this January and the first lockdown last year, sixth-year students have so far missed almost four months of in-class learning due to extended school closures.

Plans to send students back into school for three days a week fell apart at the beginning of the month. The moves to "pause" the arrangements were welcomed by groups representing principals and boards of management. 

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) had advised its members not to engage with the plans, but to instead continue teaching remotely. 

The Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) was also to advise its members not to engage, but the Government announced the plans would be put on hold. Engagement between the parties has remained ongoing since this time. 

Both unions, as well as Norma Foley, the Minister for Education, have expressed their preference for the traditional exams to go ahead as much as is possible. 

The 2021 State Advisory Group is made up of representatives of students, parents, boards of management, and school patrons, as well as officials from the Department of Education. 

This week, Simon Harris, the Minister for Higher and Further Education, said he would like to have plans for the Leaving Cert by the end of the month. "We're going to need to map out exactly how that's going to happen," he said. 

We actually have to say the Leaving Cert is going to happen and here's how it's going to happen; here's what's going to happen in a safe way.

Meanwhile, talks continued yesterday between the Department of Education and the unions representing primary teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) regarding the arrangements for special schools and classes. 

Speaking at a briefing, Paul Reid, HSE director, said there are impacts on young people, particularly vulnerable students, on not having school available. "Families with vulnerable children will not have the same population level of exposure because of the very nature of their children's vulnerabilities." 

"Nowhere is risk-free but as a society, we do have to support our most vulnerable groups. It's key for us as a health service that we recognise the particular needs of these children and support access for them." 

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