This summer’s leaving certificate exams have been postponed until late July or early August, the government has announced, meaning students are likely to start college later than planned.
The decision, announced this afternoon by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Education Joe McHugh, means sixth-year students around the country will start their college courses much later than they normally would.
It’s unclear yet what the news will mean for universities’ academic calendars.
In a video address last month, Provost Patrick Prendergast promised incoming students that “come the autumn, we will be welcoming many of you to our campus”.
“It might be slightly later than in previous years – it might be under slightly adjusted criteria”, he said, “but we will be welcoming you”.
“Every autumn, the university renews itself through the influx of new students.”
Junior certificate exams will be replaced by school-based exams that will run early next year.
A survey of around 28,000 leaving certificate students, carried out last week by the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU) found that delaying the exams until the summer was the least popular option for sixth-year students.
Almost 50 per cent of students who responded to the survey said they wanted to cancel exams and use assignments they’ve completed already to determine their grades.
The Irish Times reported earlier this week that the exams were likely to take place over the summer, amid doubts at government level that social distancing restrictions – in place as a result of the pandemic – would be lifted by June.
Leaving certificate oral and practical exams, scheduled to take place between March and April, had already been cancelled by the government.
ISSU has called on the government to adopt a no-detriment policy – a measure also called for by thousands of third-level students – in order to minimise the negative consequences for leaving certificate students.
In universities, the campaign called on colleges to implement a policy that would have meant students who get over 40 per cent would not have their overall mark for the year brought down by summer exams.
On Wednesday, The University Times revealed that Trinity would reject a no-detriment policy called for by thousands of students, and put in place a raft of alternative measures for students whose exam performance is compromised by the coronavirus pandemic.
Documents obtained by this newspaper showed Council was to be presented with a proposal that will allow students to resit modules even if they’ve passed them, or to retrospectively defer assessments if they feel their performance has been affected.
Trinity will also allow students to pass the year, no matter how many modules they fail, as long as their overall mark is over 40 per cent.
Senior Lecturer Kevin Mitchell and Vice-Provost Jurgen Barkhoff said: “We recognise that many students will be able to pass but may feel unable to achieve the kind of results they would have hoped for under normal conditions.”
“This will be especially important for grades achieved in years that contribute to the degree award, which can, of course, have an important impact on students’ admission to programmes of further study or other career opportunities”, they concluded.