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2,569 candidates begin a Leaving Cert for the history books

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Candidates will be scattered across 574 schools or centres

Candidates will be scattered across 574 schools or centres

Candidates will be scattered across 574 schools or centres

The most unusual Leaving Cert exams ever get under way today, with special arrangements in place for any candidate who is a close contact of a confirmed Covid-19 case.

A total of 2,569 students from the Leaving Cert class of 2020 have entered to sit the postponed written papers, with the first exam, Biology, at 5.30pm.

It is about 4pc of those who planned to sit the exams in June.

Exams will run in the evenings and over weekends until December 11. Sixty adult learners and early school-leavers are sitting postponed Junior Cert exams.

Candidates will be scattered across 574 schools or other centres in every county, allowing plenty of scope for social distancing. However, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) has advised of contingency arrangements for candidates who are a close contact of a confirmed Covid case but have no symptoms themselves and are restricting their movements.

If such a student provides 24 hours' notice, the SEC will try to accommodate them at an alternative location where public health would not be compromised.

However, there is no guarantee, and the SEC said that while it will "seek to put in place arrangements to accommodate these candidates", it will not always be possible.

The arrangements are based on updated guidance from the HSE.

There will be no second sitting of this deferred Leaving Cert, such as was introduced for students who had a bereavement during the June exams.

Marking of the papers will rely principally on the expert judgment of the chief examiner and other senior examiners which, according to the SEC, "will ensure that the standards applied will be fair and valid".

Appeals

There will be an appeals process, and students who are unhappy with a grade they receive may apply for a re-check.

The biggest single cohort of students, numbering 879, are sitting one subject, with 630 taking two and 449 doing three. There are 24 students doing eight subjects or more.

The numbers doing one, two or three subjects - 1,958 - suggest many students are aiming to maximise CAO points and receive a hoped-for college offer.

Biology is the most popular subject for the exam with 1,003 entries, followed by maths at 974. English, chemistry and Irish follow with 561, 537 and 427 respectively.

The November sitting was announced as part of the decision not to go ahead with the exams either in June or July because of Covid-19.

The summer exams were replaced with a calculated grades process.

November was a back-up for students unhappy with those grades or for those who did not receive grades because they could not provide evidence from a teacher to support their level of achievement.

About 200 November candidates are out of school learners who did not receive calculated grades.


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