Seanad debates

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

State Examinations

2:30 pm

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Senator for raising this important issue and allowing me the opportunity to address it. I extend my best wishes to all in the House for the year ahead.

I am very conscious of the disruption experienced by students who are due to do their leaving certificate examinations this year - the class of 2022. It is welcome that schools reopened at the normal time after the Christmas holidays. I am very much aware that schools are working tirelessly to deliver the best possible educational experience for their students.

All planning for the 2022 examinations is guided by the prevailing public health advice and will, as always, have regard to the well-being of students. My Department continues to engage with the partners in education on all matters relating to the leaving certificate examinations of 2022. The next meeting of the advisory group of State examinations, to which the Senator referred, is planned for tomorrow. The group includes representatives of students, parents, teachers and school leaders, as well as the State Examinations Commission, SEC, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, higher education and, of course, my Department.

Adjustments to the examination papers for the 2022 State examinations were announced in August 2021. These adjustments were designed to take account of the disruption to learning experienced by students in the early part of 2021, in addition to providing for some possible further disruption in 2021–22 school year. The adjustments ensure that the overall structure of the examinations remains intact while allowing greater choice for students.Revised arrangements for leaving certificate oral examinations in Irish and modern foreign languages, and the practical performance tests in leaving certificate music, were announced last month. These examinations will now take place outside of school time over the first week of the school Easter holidays. By moving these examinations to the Easter holidays, the State Examinations Commission, SEC, aims to minimise disruption to teaching and learning, especially for those candidates preparing for their examinations, as this change will limit teacher absence from schools.

The SEC also recently provided some further information to schools regarding aspects of the 2022 State examinations. This included postponing commencement of assessment of what are known as the leaving certificate applied February tasks, from 31 January to 14 February. Schools were also reminded of the flexibility that is available regarding the dates for completion and authentication of course work for leaving certificate candidates.

I also announced that an alternative set of leaving certificate examinations will be run in 2022, shortly after the conclusion of the main set of examinations. This will be for students who are unable to sit the main set of examinations for various reasons, including Covid-19 illness, bereavement or serious illness.

Finally, the Department has also provided a suite of guidance materials, agreed with the education partners, to enable schools to mediate the curriculum safely for all pupils in a Covid-19 context. My Department will continue to engage with all partners in education on all matters relating to leaving certificate 2022 examinations. It is important to note the advisory group has been involved at every step of the way. The next advisory group meeting for State examinations in 2022 has been planned for tomorrow, Thursday. As previously outlined, this is a large and widely representative group of all the voices in education, including students, parents, teachers and managerial bodies.


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