Updated 6:40am, May 8th
The Leaving Certificate is set to be cancelled in favour of predictive grades.
A memo is set to go before Cabinet ministers this morning.
Work has gone on behind the scenes to prepare an alternative to the State exams and a plan is being finalised.
This is despite a start-date of July 29th being proposed by Education Minister Joe McHugh.
Under the revised plans, it is likely a system of predictive grades will be given to students in lieu of physical exams.
It is understood there will be an opportunity for students unhappy with their grade to sit an exam.
However, this option may not be available until very late this year or into 2021.
Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show, Leo Varadkar confirmed they will make a decision on the exams at this morning's Cabinet meeting and announce the plans this afternoon.
He said: “If it’s not possible for it to proceed for reasons related to the pandemic, I think it’s important the Department of Education and education officials come up with an alternative that is fair or is as fair as possibly can be.
“No matter what decision is made this morning, there will be a lot of people who are disappointed in the decision - and there will be a lot of questions.”
He said a “huge amount of work” has been undertaken to prepare answers to those questions and offer certainty to sixth-year students.
Labour's education spokesman, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, said we need to need whether any predictive grading system has the same status as Leaving Cert exams.
He said: "It is vitally important that a ‘Leaving Certificate’ of sound standing is awarded to every student leaving secondary school this year. I am also deeply concerned about school profiling and the impact on disadvantaged students.
“For example, we need to know how a Plan B will deal with the potential for bias when teachers are marking their own students.
"We need to know how the replacement certificate will ensure students have access to public jobs that require a leaving certificate. The list of issues and complications is long."
The Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon earlier said his office had received a large number of complaints amid the continuing uncertainty.
Dr Muldoon met Minister McHugh on Wednesday to discuss the issues.
He said there were a large number of complaints made by parents and students to his office over the past number of weeks.
These related to mental health concerns, special education needs, digital discrimination and inequity in the provision of continuity of learning.
Speaking on Thursday evening, Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said any exams would have to consider the public health advice.
He said: "The public health advice is clear enough in terms of social distancing, in terms of the length of time that people can spend in company - particularly indoors... in terms of the length of time that you can have close contact with individuals, in terms of the risks around public transportation and so on.
"I think what has to happen now is that the assessment has to be made.
"We've given the advice, and our preference will be that - irrespective of the sector or the setting - that every sector... follows the advice that we have in place."
"I know that our colleagues in the Department of Education will be trying to ensure that they can assess the extent to which they can follow that advice and guidance in their determinations about whether in fact they can operate the exam or not".
Meanwhile, an online petition calling for the exams to be cancelled has been signed by over 26,000 people.
Reporting by Sean Defoe, Jack Quann and Stephen McNeice