A decision on arrangements for this year's State exams is expected to be made "within the next few weeks", with a number of "possible options" currently under consideration.
The group tasked with contingency planning for this year's State exams met again on Wednesday to discuss arrangements for this year's Leaving and Junior Cert.
Education Minister Norma Foley met with students, parents, teachers and school management bodies on Wednesday to discuss plans for the State examinations. Officials from the State Examinations Commission (SEC) and the Department of Education also attended.
The discussion focused on “an exploration of further possible options for the examinations”, according to a spokesman for the Department of Education.“Themes around alternatives and possible impact on the student experience were discussed.”
However, a final decision on what these changes will involve is still some time away, with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar confirming he expects a decision on this year’s exams to be made “within the next few weeks.”
Among the options being considered are calculated grades, a modified exam, or a choice, he told RTÉ.
Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle students should now be offered an "assessed" grade model, according to Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Labour’s education spokesman. Mr O Riordáin said Education Minister Norma Foley must bring "clarity and certainty" to the situation. "Students are watching every word the minister says at the moment. There are a number of challenges that come with this decision.”
“Crucial in all of this is that students are engaged in school life until summer. School plays such a fundamental role in society, and teachers throughout the country are working hard to facilitate virtual learning in the most difficult of circumstances.”
Mr O Riordáin said orals and practicals would have to have an assessed grade across the board “no matter what” because schools may not be back in classrooms in time for them to take place.
Sinn Féin education spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has also called for clarity for Junior Cycle students. “I have spoken to many Junior Cert students and their families, who have told me that not knowing what is happening is putting huge pressure on them and their classmates, and impacting their mental health."
Junior Cert students must not be forgotten. It is unfair to leave them in the lurch, the Minister must urgently provide clarity & let students know what the contingency plan is. @sinnfeinireland https://t.co/ltynUzIKpI— Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire (@Donnchadhol) January 27, 2021
Meanwhile, temporary changes have been made to the 2021 disability access route to third level, in acknowledgement of the effect of extended school closures. Electronic signatures on supporting documents will now be accepted as part of the Disability Access Route to Education (Dare), making it easier for schools to complete the process ahead of the deadline on March 15.
Students applying with specific learning difficulties can now use literacy or numeracy attainment test scores which are up to three years older than those originally sought, from 2016 instead of 2019.