The Leaving Certificate exams that were due to take place this summer have been cancelled and students are to be offered the option of receiving calculated grades.
Students who want to sit the traditional exams will be facilitated at a later date when the coronavirus pandemic eases, however it will not be in time for when the college year begins.
Education Minister Joe McHugh had previously proposed a start date of July 29, subject to public health advice.
Speaking at Government Buildings on Friday, he said the decision to postpone the exams “was made with a heavy heart”.
Mr McHugh added: “Unfortunately there is now compelling advice that shows holding the exams and returning to school would be impossible.
“We all know the Leaving Certificate can be a stressful time. Some students have parents working on the front line, others are anxious about families and some are grieving.
“I have made every effort to run the 2020 Leaving Certificate as close as possible to the way the examinations were originally intended to be held.
“My desire had been to allow students to undertake the written and practical examinations in July and August but I have compelling evidence, based on medical advice and other assessments, that the Leaving Certificate examinations cannot be held in a reliable and valid manner, nor in a way that would be equitable for students.”
Under the revised plans, a system of predictive grades will be given to students in lieu of physical exams.
He said Covid-19 has forced the Government to make changes that were unthinkable in previous weeks.
A special unit in the Department of Education has been designed to oversee and apply a “nationalised standardisation” to Leaving Cert predictive grades.
Teachers will be asked to provide a “professional judgment of each student’s attainment” which will be “subjected to a rigorous in school alignment process to ensure fairness”, Mr McHugh said.
The school principal will approve the estimated scores and the rankings of each student in each subject in the school.
Students will be able to appeal over the grades as education officials will check the data provided by schools, the transfer of the data to the department and the way it was processed by department officials.
Addressing accusations the new system would lead to students challenging their grades, Mr McHugh said: “There are legal vulnerabilities around the course we are taking.”
He said it is expected students may receive their results in August or “as close to the normal date as possible”.
Mr McHugh said: “We can’t put a specific date on when students will get their Leaving Certificate results.”
Students will be handed a formal state certification based on the calculated grades they have been given.
The Leaving Certificate fee will be refunded to students who have already paid it.
Ahead of the announcement, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Newstalk FM the Department of Education tried to come up with an alternative that is fair for students.
He said: “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.”