The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has said it is “extremely disappointing” that Leaving Cert oral exams will take place during the Easter break again, despite calls for a return to pre-pandemic timings.
In a circular issued to schools, the State Exams Commission (SEC) confirmed that the oral exams will take place during the Easter break next year.
Prior to the change in 2022, exams were held during school time, either before or after the Easter break.
The change was introduced at the time to limit teacher absences from schools and minimise disruption to teaching.
The Irish Second-Level Students' Union, the TUI, the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI), and the Irish language subject association An Gréasán have all called for the exams to return to the pre-pandemic norm.
They have argued that the current schedule is having a “detrimental” impact on the wellbeing of students.
In the circular, the SEC said it is aware of the “mixed views” of stakeholders about the timing and is conducting an extensive evaluation, “in order to fully assess the issues associated with the timing of the oral examinations.”
“In order to provide certainty to the system, including for candidates preparing for the 2024 Leaving Certificate, the SEC believes it is preferable to extend the Easter holiday timing for a further year,” they said.
TUI said teachers agreed to the holding of oral examinations at Easter on an “exceptional basis” during the covid-19 pandemic and have since consistently advocated a return to the pre-pandemic status quo.
A spokesperson said that rather than alleviating pressure on students, the holding of oral examinations during the holidays increases pressure, particularly for those taking more than one oral exam.
“We note that the SEC is currently engaged in an evaluation of the timing of these examinations for future years.
“We urge them to take on board the clear and consistent position of students and teachers on this important issue and to revert to holding the oral examinations during term time,” they said.
Education Minister Norma Foley said: “I welcome the clarity that has been provided for school staff and students. It is important that they know the date of the oral examinations as soon as possible.”
The Department of Education said schools will be given additional funding to appoint a teacher to provide pastoral support to candidates during the exams after the SEC found that students did not have access to normal school support structures during the holidays.
School authorities have also been asked to keep in mind the demands on students who have oral exams in more than one language by avoiding scheduling multiple tests on one day.
The SEC will commence the recruitment of Leaving Certificate oral examiners for 2024 next week. The rate of pay for oral examiners will include a premium for examining over the Easter holidays.