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Back-up Leaving Cert exams in case Covid hits pupils

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Dorothy Miller-Carney at the launch of a science careers campaign

Dorothy Miller-Carney at the launch of a science careers campaign

Dorothy Miller-Carney at the launch of a science careers campaign

Leaving Cert students affected by Covid-19 may be given a second chance to sit papers in July.

The Department of Education proposes to run the State examinations in June, and say it is the "firm intention" of Education Minister Norma Foley the exams take place.

But they have to factor in the possibility of the absence of candidates who may be ill with Covid-19, or who are isolating.

While the imminent arrival of vaccines is an additional tool in the battle against the disease, it is believed the virus will still pose a risk in June.

So, preparations for the June assessments must include Covid-19 contingency arrangements so State exam chiefs have raised the possibility of widening access to a back-up sitting in July.

No decision has been taken.

A July sitting was introduced on a pilot basis in 2019 for students who suffered a close family bereavement during the exams, and almost 40 candidates availed of the option.

It allowed for a student to be absent from exams for a three-day period during the June timetable.

It was expected to run in 2020 but the exams were cancelled because of Covid-19.

Advantage

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) was also looking at extending the initiative to take account of other circumstances that would cause absence such illness.

But excusing a candidate from the June exams has to be balanced against ensuring that sitting an alternative paper at a later date does not give the student an unfair advantage.

Planning for the 2021 exams is being carried out with an advisory group including school management bodies and representatives of principals, teachers, parents and students.

The group held its second meeting this week when the SEC set out possible arrangements for future exams - orals and practicals as well as the written papers - during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Conducting the oral exams online was also among options presented, but some sources did not think that would be feasible because of poor broadband in some schools or the risk a connection would fail.

Members of the advisory group have been asked to consider how the challenges presented by running the exams can be met.

A further meeting is planned next month.

Students have already been advised there will be greater choice of questions on the written papers to reflect the disruption to education over the past year.


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