The State Examinations Commission (SEC) is conducting an evaluation to assess the impact of holding Leaving Cert oral exams during the Easter break, following calls to return to pre-pandemic norms.
It comes as the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) are the latest to back a student-led call for the exams to return to pre-pandemic timings, saying the current schedule is having a “detrimental” impact on students.
Oral exams were held during school time, either before or after the Easter break, prior to the change which has been in place since the 2022 exams.
The change was introduced at the time to limit teacher absences from schools and minimise disruption to teaching.
The SEC said the University of Galway will undertake research to explore parent, student, teacher, examiner, and school leadership opinions about the timing of the Leaving Certificate oral examinations.
“The research will inform the wider evaluation process, currently being undertaken by the SEC, to feed into advice to the Education Minister on the timing of the Leaving Certificate oral examinations in the future,” an SEC spokesperson told the Irish Examiner.
Both TUI and ASTI said teachers agreed to the holding of oral examinations at Easter, on an “exceptional basis during the covid-19 emergency”, and have consistently advocated a return to the pre-pandemic norm.
In a joint statement, the groups said:
It is having a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of students who miss out on the collegiality and camaraderie, normally available around the time of this high-pressure examination.
“The clear feedback from all in school communities is that rather than alleviating pressure on students, the holding of oral examinations at Easter time increases pressure.”
TUI president David Waters said a survey of TUI members showed that 84% of respondents wish to see the examinations take place “in the pre-covid-19 manner”.
“Students who have to undertake more than one oral examination during this short time period are now experiencing significant pressure, as the oral examinations previously took place over a longer time frame,” he said.
The call for a return to pre-pandemic timing was initially made by the Irish Second-Level Students' Union which said that while the change was necessary at the time, it is now no longer suitable and is putting students under “undue pressure”.