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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 8 July, 2020
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Leaving Cert exams postponed until late July or August and Junior Cert exams cancelled

The decision was announced this afternoon.

THE LEAVING CERTIFICATE has been postponed until late July or August because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The government announced the changes this afternoon, saying the Junior Cert would be cancelled, and replaced with school-based tests later in the year.

While the detail is being worked out, the decision means that thousands of students will not be sitting exams in the usual June period.

Over 61,000 students are expected to sit the Leaving Cert exam.

The announcement came following advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team. 

Speaking this afternoon, Minister for Education Joe McHugh said that the Leaving Certificate exams would – under the current plan – be held in either the last week of July or early August.

The Junior Cert, he said, would take place early in the new school year. McHugh called it a “unique arrangement in response to a national crisis”.

While schools will remain closed for the foreseeable future, McHugh said today that “it is vitally important that these Leaving Cert students have some class-based school time before facing into exams”.

McHugh said that his department was working to “make that a reality”.

He acknowledged that this was a stressful time for students, but he said that he hoped today’s announcement would “alleviate some stress being experienced by students and their families”.

In response to questions from reporters, McHugh also said that it wasn’t the case that the school year was now over for students who weren’t sitting exams. 

Other countries have also taken significant decisions regarding school exams. In the UK, GCSE and A-Level exams were cancelled because of the virus. 

McHugh previously said that his department was still focused on written exams going ahead. 

The Irish Universities Association has welcomed the clarity on state exams. “Our universities will now work with the CAO and other stakeholders to ensure that new university students can begin their studies as soon as possible after the publication of the 2020 Leaving Certificate results,” a spokesperson said. 

McHugh said that he had been in contact with the UK education minister Gavin Williamson about the changes to exams, noting that a lot of Irish students go on to attend UK colleges. 

Responding to the announcement, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and the Teachers Union of Ireland said that the executive committees of the two unions would meet remotely this evening to discuss how best to proceed. 

The State Examinations Commission stressed that “every effort” would be made to run the exams as close to normal as possible.

In a statement, a spokesperson said that by “retaining all of the available space that was to be used for both sets of examinations”, it will be able to “reduce the number of Leaving Certificate candidates in each examination centre”. 

A range of groups welcomed today’s announcement, including Education and Training Boards Ireland, the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools and the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals. 

In a joint statement, they said that the news “brings certainty for students at this difficult time”. 

“We wish to assure students and their parents of the continued support of their schools in maintaining continuity of teaching and learning and engagement with the student cohort. This is a vitally important time for students to remain connected with their schools and their teachers,” the statement said. 

With reporting by Dominic McGrath 

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Laura Byrne  / Assistant News Editor

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