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Children's ombudsman calls on government to clarify plans for Junior and Leaving Cert exams

Schools across the country remain closed ahead of this year’s exams in June.

Image: Leah Farrell/

THE OMBUDSMAN FOR Children has called on the government to clarify how it plans to manage this year’s Leaving and Junior Certificate exams.

Dr Niall Muldoon said that although he acknowledged the unprecedented situation that had arisen as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, students had “been left too long without answers” about when and how this year’s State examinations would take place.

Schools across the country have been closed since 12 March as part of measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus, while the Leaving and Junior Cert oral and practical exams were cancelled the following week.

There has been no indication that these or further measures since introduced by the government will be lifted by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) tomorrow.

But with the June start date for both sets of examinations under two months away, Muldoon called on the government to be clear with young people as soon as possible to allow them to prepare for whatever the outcome may be. 

“There has been a complete vacuum of information leaving young people stressed, anxious and distracted from the study they should be doing,” he said.

“As recently as Wednesday of this week, the Government again advised young people to stay focused and to continue to study.

“This advice may be well intended but the reality is that many students cannot simply continue to study in the current circumstances.”

Muldoon pointed to limited access to online classes and support for some students, and said that others lived in cramped environments not suitable for study.

He also expressed support for a proposal by Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh this week to give students at least two weeks back at school before exams begin, but suggested that this be extended to ensure that the full curriculum is covered.

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“Whether we like it or not the Leaving Certificate is an extremely important exam, deciding the direction of travel for many young people for the next few years of their lives,” he added.

“We must give those preparing for this exam every chance to do as well as they can and to fulfil their potential…

“One of the things that people crave when they are anxious is certainty. It is that certainty I am calling for – whatever the decision, make it clear and give it as soon as possible.”

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