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School closures prompt changes to 2021 Leaving Cert and Junior Cert exams

The changes were announced this evening by the Department of Education.

Students will notice some changes to exams in 2021.
Students will notice some changes to exams in 2021.
Image: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

THE LEAVING AND Junior Cert exams will end up looking slightly different next year, after the Department of Education announced changes to the format of the exams for 2021 to make up for the impact of Covid-19. 

While most of the exam format will be similar to previous years, students are set to be offered more choice to make up for the school closures caused by the pandemic. 

Minister for Education Norma Foley is under pressure to ensure the safe return to school for thousands of children. 

“I am heartened by the response of the education sector to the challenge that the Covid-19 pandemic has presented,” she said.

“Principals, school management and staff right around the country have been committed to this re-opening process from the start and we will now see some of our schools begin to return next week.”

The changes to the exams, which were broadly welcomed by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, are said to “reflect and recognise a loss of learning time in the 2019/20 school year,” according to a document published by the Department of Education. 

In practice, this will mean students have more choice in the questions they answer in exams. 

In a subject like higher-level English, students will have one additional poetry question, for instance. 

No exams will see a change in length, but students should notice some changes across a range of subjects

The changes were largely welcomed by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland. 

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In a statement, the organisation said: “Clearly, adjustment of the curriculum would not have been appropriate given the different approaches of schools in terms of delivering the curriculum, so incorporating additional choice into the examinations and making adjustments to additional assessment components represents a fair and equitable approach.”

“It is important to note that as with all developing issues related to the national health emergency, there are details and arising issues that will have to be worked out, many of which may not be apparent yet,” it said. 

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