Leaving Cert to include written exams and an alternative 

Leaving Cert to include written exams and an alternative 

Bilateral discussions on the Leaving Cert will begin immediately, it has been announced. Picture: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Talks are to begin on developing both Leaving Cert exams and an alternative assessment model, the Minister for Education has announced. 

Norma Foley, the Minister for Education, has announced this Friday that moving forward, planning for the State exams will include both the Leaving Cert exams, and a corresponding “non-examination process.” 

Bilateral discussions between the Department of Education and the education partners will begin immediately, she announced today.

A shared understanding has been reached between all parties on the challenges facing the State exams this year, the Department of Education said in a statement.

Confidential, bilateral discussions will now begin on developing two different processes for Leaving Cert 2021: planning for exam and scoping out a “corresponding measure”, different to examinations that can also be offered to students.

“Discussions on Junior Cycle examinations will continue in these engagements.” Norma Foley said: “The pandemic has impacted greatly on the learning experience of our Leaving Certificate 2021 students over the last year.

“We must provide our students with a clear way to progress to the next stage in life – further and higher education and training or the world of work.

I am inviting the education partners to now engage intensively with the department in planning for the next steps, to enable decisions to be made and to bring much-needed certainty for students." 

“We will be actively planning both to hold the Leaving Certificate examinations and to put in place a corresponding measure that can also be offered to students.

"Any corresponding measure should have the confidence of the education partners, she added.

An earlier version of this story said that students would be offered the choice between the two assessment models. However, that has yet to be decided. 

The Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) both say they have both accepted an invitation from the Minister to enter into the bilateral talks. 

The TUI said:"We are keenly aware of the need for clarity in relation to State Examinations this year and the anxiety currently being experienced by all in school communities as a result of the ongoing challenges presented by the national health emergency."

In a statement, the ASTI said it is "working constructively with all stakeholders to ensure that Leaving Certificate 2021 goes ahead as normally as possible and that alternative plans, should they be necessary, will be put in place."

Education Minister, Norma Foley issued an update on the Leaving Cert this afternoon. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Education Minister, Norma Foley issued an update on the Leaving Cert this afternoon. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Norma Foley said: “Last year a process was put in place that involved schools generating estimated marks and the application of a national standardisation process. This allowed students to progress.”

“Any corresponding measure this year would need to incorporate new features. In particular, the State Examinations Commission will need to be given the necessary legal powers to run the process.”

“It will also need to provide more comprehensively for students studying outside school,” she added.

“Recognition of the skills and competences associated with orals, practicals and coursework should also form a clearer part of any such measure.” 

“Due to the nature of the pandemic, and the need to always have regard to public health advice, in addition to planning actively to hold the Leaving Certificate examinations, it is necessary to have in place a parallel measure that can also be offered to students.”

The Department has indicated to the education partners that any corresponding process would need to include the following features:

  • The State Examinations Commission running both the examinations and the corresponding process
  • Better provision for out-of-school learners in the corresponding process
  • Some cognisance of performance in “additional component” elements of examinations (coursework, orals, practicals, etc.) 
  • Timely progression to higher and further education using either examinations or the outcome of any corresponding process. 


Minister Foley said: “To all examination students: I recognise that this is a difficult period for you. We are working hard to provide the best possible solutions, so you can progress as you wish and deserve.

“This next stage of confidential bilateral meetings with each of the partners is necessary to bring the work of the Advisory Group to a conclusion and forge a pathway for the students of 2021. 

"I look forward to this engagement being completed in as short a timeframe as possible.”

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