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More than 50,000 students to begin (slightly longer) Leaving Cert exam period with English paper I

The exams commission has introduced new measures to safeguard the wellbeing of Leaving Certificate students.

Image: Leah Farrell

MORE THAN 60,000 Junior Certificate students and more than 50,000 Leaving Certificate students are putting pen to paper today as the state examinations commence.

Both students from the Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate cycles will begin the exam period with their first exam subject being English.

This year some 56,882 Leaving Certificate students including 2,774 Leaving Certificate Applied students, and 64,723 Junior Certificate students will sit exams.

Leaving Cert students will begin with English paper 1 this morning followed by Home Economics this afternoon. 

Junior Cert students will also being with English followed by Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) in the afternoon. 

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) previously announced the traditional 13-day Leaving Certificate exam period is being extended by two days, meaning there will be exams held on 15 out of 20 days.

The junior cycle exam period will be 14 days long.

Education Minister Joe McHugh and Junior Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, a former principal, issued statements of good luck to students and said the exams are not the only path to a “rewarding life”. 

“The exams are a milestone in your education and you shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there are many paths to a rewarding life,” McHugh said. 

Mitchell O’Connor said: “Keep in mind all that you have learnt in school beyond your academic subjects.  Your skills of communication, resilience and decision-making, your entrepreneurial skills, creativity and your confidence.”

Wellbeing

Along with the new timeline, the SEC is also piloting a new programme for Leaving Certificate students who suffer a bereavement of a close family member during the exam period.

It aims to allow for the student to attend the funeral of their relative and miss up to three days of exams in June, and then sit alternative exam papers in July.

The measure applies to anyone who loses a close relative such as a mother, father or sibling, and also includes students who lose a grandparent, a half-brother/sister, or a step-brother/sister.

It is only available to Leaving Certificate students, however, as missing exams in the senior school cycle may result in missed CAO offers for third-level and further education courses, according to the SEC.

Chair of the State Examinations Commission, Pat Burke said: “The support of families and the wider community for candidates sitting examinations is very important.

“For its part, the commission will continue its work in ensuring that the examinations meet the highest standards of fairness and transparency.

“This year, we have introduced two measures to assist the wellbeing of candidates,” he added.

“The Leaving Certificate examination timetable has been extended by two days to minimise the possibility of subject clashes so that candidates are given the best chance in the examinations.

“In addition, Leaving Certificate candidates who, sadly, suffer the bereavement of a close relative during the examinations can opt to defer their examinations for up to three days, with the alternative examinations taking place in early July.”

More than 4 million examination papers have been distributed to schools and exam centres around the country, and students are being urged to look after their health during the exam period. 

“I do want to stress that although these are important exams, remember that no matter what path you want to take, there are many options and routes to get there,” Clive Byrne, director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals said. 

“Remember to eat and sleep well, use your time sensibly and find a quiet place to study,” he said. 

Examiners

Meanwhile, the SEC is still seeking qualified applicants to mark exam scripts when the exams are complete.

Last month, it issued an urgent appeal for teachers and retired teachers to apply for examiner positions.

It is still seeking applications in seven Leaving Certificate subjects – Business, English, Geography, French, German, Home Economics, and Spanish.

At Junior Certificate level there is a shortage in 10 subjects – CSPE, Gaeilge, Geography, German, History, Home Economics, Maths, Religion, Science, and Spanish.

The SEC appoints approximately 3,600 examiners every year, who are paid between €4 and €30 per paper marked for the Leaving and Junior Certificate written examinations.

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