Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

14.34 29 Apr 2020


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Secondary schools have been given the choice on whether to run school-based assessments for junior cycle students.

The government has scrapped previous plans to replace the usual summer exams with class-based tests in the autumn due to the COVID-19 crisis.

With formal State junior cycle exams cancelled, third-year students will instead now all be awarded certificates for the completion of the junior cycle.

Schools who do decide to hold assessments will be able to decide what form they take - with potential options including school-designed examinations, projects, assignments, essay style questions or presentations.

The Department of Education says students will all receive a "written school report on their learning achievements" shortly after the current school year ends.

Meanwhile, the State Examinations Commission is being asked to prepare arrangements for adult learners to give them a chance to take final junior cycle examinations later this year.

In a statement, Education Minister Joe McHugh acknowledged it's currently a difficult time for students, and that the changes are aimed at providing certainty to all involved in the junior cycle.

He said: “This decision has been made with the health and wellbeing of students, parents and teachers at the forefront of our thinking.

“It also gives schools freedom to decide how best to assess the progress of students following three years of hard work and learning.”

'Certainty' for teachers and students

It had previously been announced that the usual junior cycle exams would be replaced with school-based exams and assessments early in the new school year.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland welcomed today's change, suggesting it provides certainty for students, teachers and parents.

TUI President Seamus Lahart said: "TUI made clear to the Department of Education and Skills in recent discussions that requiring Senior Cycle students to sit examinations designed for Junior Cycle would be regressive educationally and would further complicate what is likely to be an extremely challenging process of re-opening schools in September.

"Any such arrangements would also be time-consuming, would cause unnecessary stress for students and would unacceptably increase the workload of teachers and school management."

He said teachers can now focus on teaching in a "logical, coherent manner" for the rest of the current school term.

With schools remaining closed for now due to coronavirus restrictions, Mr Lahart also said teachers remain committed to remote and online learning for all students.

Main image: Education Minister Joe McHugh. Photograph: Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland

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