Schools have been told to use a perspex screen between students and interviewers in the upcoming Leaving Cert oral exams.
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) has issued guidance on the running of the orals, including necessary public health measures.
The Leaving Cert orals start next Friday, March 26 and run until April 15 and Leaving Cert Applied (LCA) orals will run in May.
Other than in exceptional circumstances, the orals are taking place face to face, and schools have been told to maintain a two-metre distance between the interviewer and the candidate.
However, while mask wearing is the norm in post-primary schools, the SEC says it was not appropriate for the orals.
Exams chiefs say masks would interfere with proper and clear communication and with the creation of a clear recording that properly shows the candidate’s level of communicative proficiency
However, perspex screens are to be used and schools must also ensure that rooms are adequately ventilated, although also ensuring that external noise does not interfere with the interview or its recording.
Other health-related instructions include the cleaning of all surfaces and the digital recording equipment between interviews
Because of Covid, this year the orals are not being conducted by State appointed examiners and, instead, teachers in the same school or from another school in the area, will record the interviews and send them to the SEC for marking.
Teachers are being paid €19.56 for each interview except in the in the case of Leaving Cert Irish Foundation Level , where the rate is €14.60.
Any student who wants to take a language in the June exams, which also has an oral component, must sit the orals, However, sitting the orals is not necessary if a student is being assessed language only for an accredited grade.
Where students have been unable to attend school physically and are continuing with online education, the orals can be carried out remotely, such as on Zoom.
The school can make similar remote interview arrangements for other candidates who cannot go to the school for Covid -19 related or otherwise medically certified reasons.
The guidance states that a remote interview should not be made available to a candidate simply as a matter of preference.
“The school must be satisfied that there is no safe and feasible way to carry out an on-site interview.”
In cases where orals are conducted remotely, schools have been told to submit only an audio recording, and not a video recording.
In such recordings, they have to ensure that the student does not have access during the interview to materials other than those required for the interview, or access to any other person who might prompt or assist them.
The guidance says this can be achieved by arranging for the student to show the interviewer the full surroundings of the room and the desk or table they are at, following which the camera should be arranged in such a way that the door of the room is visible, and the candidate remains within shot.
If the presence of another person in the room during the interview is necessary for medical or other support reasons, then they should remain behind the candidate and visible.