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IT WAS CONFIRMED this evening that Leaving Certificate students are to be given the option not to sit exams and instead apply for a calculated grade accredited by the State Examinations Commission.

Under the plan, students who decide to take an exam will receive whichever result is higher between their calculate grade and the result from the written exam. 

This result will be given on the day of the results and they will not receive the calculate grade before they sit their exam.  

You can catch up on the latest as it unfolded this evening below. 

Good evening, Hayley Halpin here to bring you all the latest news over the next few hours. 

Briefly, here’s what we know so far: 

  • Education Minister Norma Foley has been addressing a Cabinet sub-committee this afternoon regarding the Leaving Certificate.
  • The sub-committee has signed off on a proposal to provide Leaving Cert students with calculated grades in each subject. 
  • They will also be given the option to sit a written exam. Whichever result is higher will stand as their final result in each subject.
  • It’s also understood that the Junior Certificate examinations are to be cancelled.
  • Oral examinations are set to go ahead and examinations are still set to take place in June. 

Reopening of schools

No decision will be made on the wider issue of the reopening of schools today as it’s set to be addressed at the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 tomorrow. 

Yesterday, Foley indicated that she is seeking a phased return of schools from next month. No date has however been agreed and plans remain subject to the agreement of unions and public health advice.

In the ECDC’s risk assessment published on Monday, the body noted that school closures should only be considered “as a last resort” due to the profound negative impact on children.

In relation to the B117 variant, it said that modelling in Denmark indicated that reopening primary schools there would be safe if it increased transmissibility by 40% but that there would be “a substantial increase” in cases if transmissibility was increased by above 55%.

Sinn Féin’s education spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has welcomed the reports that students are to be given a choice between calculated grades and written examinations. 

However, he says more detail is now needed for students. 

Tanya Ward, the chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said this reported approach for the Leaving Cert is likely to result in the “best outcomes for young people”. 

“We need to look at how they’re going to mark the exams,” she said on RTÉ Radio One’s Drivetime. 

Ward said students “missed out last year as well” so “they can’t be offering the same Leaving Cert paper and expecting the same results as in previous years”.

She said the marking process should be adapted to “give young people a fair chance at the Leaving Certificate” given the heightened uncertainty and the “emotional damage” of periods of lockdown. 

She added that the cancellation of the Junior Cert was the “most sensible approach” for young people, but alternatives are needed for those who will finish school at age 16.

Labour spokesperson for education Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said that it’s important for people in politics to “row in behind” this decision after it is finalised. 

The TD has previously called for a concrete timeline to decisions around the Leaving Cert exams. 

“At this juncture we want to ensure that the Leaving Cert has the same status as previous Leaving Certs,” he told RTÉ Radio One’s Drivetime. 

He said that if a “mechanism” has been found to allow orals, in-school learning and this model for examination to take place safely, then Labour will “do [its] best to make it work” in conjunction with government. 

He said it will be crucial to assess what the Education Minister is suggesting as the “uncertainty has gone on too long”.

Education Minister Norma Foley is expected to speak to RTÉ’s Six One regarding this evening’s decisions. 

Minister Foley has released a statement outlining the decisions made this evening. 

The statement confirms that the Leaving Certificate examinations will proceed this year.

Students will have the option to receive SEC-Accredited Grades (calculated grades) in each subject in addition to, or instead of, sitting the examination.

The statement also confirms that the Junior Certificate exams will not go ahead. 

The timetable for the written examinations in June will be published tomorrow by the State Examinations Commission. 

For those choosing to take the Leaving Certificate exams, oral examinations will be held during the Easter holidays or shortly after.

Coursework will go ahead in subjects where these form a normal part of the examination.

Additional time will be provided by the SEC for completion of this work. 

In some subjects the holding of practical examinations will not be possible given public health considerations and this will be advised as soon as possible, according to the Department.

Details of revised schedules will be issued to schools in the coming weeks.

The statement outlined that it’s the Minister’s “strongly held” view is that students must be afforded the choice as to whether to sit the examinations, including the oral and coursework components, “as it would be entirely unfair to students to require them to participate in these elements, given the disruption in learning which has occurred”. 

The oral and coursework components of the examinations will not form part of the Accredited Grade process.

Further details and guidance on both processes will be provided to schools and students and publicised widely over the coming weeks, as these become available.

In the statement, Minister Foley said: 

“The Government has today approved a plan which was developed during intensive engagement by my Department with education stakeholders, students, parents, teacher unions, school management bodes and the State Examinations Commission, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, the Higher Education Authority and representatives of higher education, to ensure a fair process so that Leaving Certificate students can progress to the next stage of their lives.

“All stakeholders have worked extremely hard to get to this point. I have listened carefully to all, and we have worked together to find solutions. Students and parents have been clear on the need for both clarity and choice which I believe his decision gives them.

“As requested by the student representatives we explored thoroughly the option of providing the SEC-Accredited Grades to students in advance of the written examinations, but this option is not possible.

“I am conscious that many students are concerned that they have not covered the full curriculum for their subjects in class, due to the interruption of in-person learning caused by the pandemic.

“Everyone wants a system that is fair and that provides the opportunity for real progression for students.

“I want to thank sincerely all the stakeholders involved in the Advisory Group process, and I look forward to continuing to work together over the coming months in further developing and implementing these plans.”

The results of the Leaving Certificate 2021 will be issued to students within the required timeframe for CAO admission to higher and further education.

The Department said it will will engage with the Department of Higher and Further Education in this regard.

Education Minister Norma Foley is now speaking to RTÉ’s Six One. 

Foley says it is envisaged that practical examinations will take place over two days during the Easter break. 

In relation to the Junior Cert, it has been confirmed that examinations will not take place this year. 

However, schools will be provided with guidance on continuing to engage this year’s group in online learning and assessment while schools remain closed and through in-person learning when schools reopen. 

Here’s a rundown of the options for Leaving Certificate students this year…

  • Leaving Cert students are to be given the option not to sit exams and instead apply for a calculated grade accredited by the State Examinations Commission. These are being called SEC-Accredited Grades this year.
  • Under the plan, students who decide to take an exam will receive whichever result is higher between their calculated grade and the result from the written exam.
  • This result will be given on the day of the results and they will not receive the calculate grade before they sit their exam. 
  • Oral and practical elements will also go ahead and will form part of the Leaving Cert exams for those who decide to take the exams. Orals and practicals are to take place “during the Easter vacation or shortly after”.
  • Subject to public health advice, it is envisaged that the Leaving Cert exams will take place during the traditional period in June. The timetable will be published tomorrow by the State Examinations Commission.  

Further details of the plan can be read here.

That’s all from us on the liveblog this evening. Thanks for sticking with us over the past few hours. 

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