Written answers

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Third Level Examinations

Photo of Rose Conway-WalshRose Conway-Walsh (Mayo, Sinn Fein)
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117. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if students returning from placements in healthcare settings such as student nurses will be expected to sit in-person exams; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [60832/21]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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Education is an essential service and the Government has agreed that it can continue on-site, in line with Safe Return Plan published in June. The Safe Return Plan and the most recent guidance on the current approach advocate and support contingency planning to ensure that institutions remain flexible and adaptable in response to changes in the public health environment.

My Department does not determine sector specific matters at this level and there is no intention to introduce a specific regulation in relation to the holding of in-person examinations in response to COVID 19. However, to address I recently met with management, staff and student representatives and the issue was discussed.

Due to the diversity of our higher education institutions, and the broad range of activities they undertake and the different contexts and requirements applicable to examinations, it was agreed that a uniform or one size fits all approach would not be appropriate across the whole of higher education or indeed the tertiary sector more generally.

Management bodies confirmed that they are actively looking at a range of approaches to ensure that end of term examinations will be safe, and that the requirements of students who may have Covid-19 or underlying health conditions can be addressed. It was also pointed out that there are some examinations – such as those related to external accreditation - which are challenging to change to an online format at short notice.

The outcome of the meeting was that individual higher education institutions will assess the appropriate approach to examinations consistent with the outcome of their risk assessments of appropriate approach taking into account the significant contextual factors that arise in different instances.

In all instances public health must remain a priority and I know that there will be a continuing focus on the evolving and often quickly changing public health situation overall. The Deputy may wish to know I have recently announced a €9 million fund to allow institutions provide free antigen tests to students.


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