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Students still wait for clarity on when schools will be reopened

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Education Minster Joe McHugh. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Education Minster Joe McHugh. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Education Minster Joe McHugh. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Q: What does it mean that schools are closed until "further notice"?

A: It means we don't have a definite date for their reopening. General physical distancing restrictions are continuing until May 5, at least. Second-level schools would be due to close at the end of May anyway, so it may be that they won't reopen. The prospects for primary schools are better as the school year runs until the end of June. Education Minister Joe McHugh said that steps to reopen schools would only be taken when public heath advice assured that it was OK to do so.

Q: Are we sure that the public health restrictions will be lifted by late July/August, to allow the Leaving Cert go ahead?

A: The hope is that, at the very least, the rules will be relaxed. The State Examinations Commission (SEC) notes that postponement of the Junior Cycle exams, while retaining all the available space that was to be used for both sets of exams, allows for a significant reduction in the number of Leaving Cert candidates in each exam centre.

Q: And what about the Junior Cycle exams?

A: They will happen in school. The SEC will provide schools with the exam papers and related materials they need to deliver these tests when schools reopen in the autumn. All of the remaining elements - project work, coursework and assessment tasks - will also be rescheduled to that time. Like the Leaving Cert, a lot of the finer detail still has to be worked out.

Q: Does postponing the Leaving Cert to the end of July/early August mean teachers will have to work during their holidays?

A: The minister wants Leaving Cert candidates back in school for at least two weeks before the exams. Even though there's lots of digital teaching and learning going on, it would be very important for these students to be back face to face with teacher for a period before the exams. There will be no compulsion about it, but teachers seem well disposed.

Q: Have the teacher unions said anything?

A: In their initial response, the ASTI and the TUI said they fully understood the decision to defer the exams and welcomed that the Government was still focused on running the Leaving Cert, given both its importance and the high level of public trust that it enjoys. They said they remained committed to serving the best interests of students. They also acknowledged the work being done by others to meet the enormous challenges facing society.

Q: What about CAO applications/college entry?

A: The admissions process for higher education will operate as closely as possible to the usual time-frame for offers. The entry date for first-year students will be delayed. The department has asked the Higher Education Authority and the higher education sector to explore ways of assisting access to higher education for students from under-represented groups.

Irish Independent