It appears that leaving oral exams for up to 60,000 students will be moved into the first week of the Easter holiday to ease what schools describe as a “crisis” in providing teachers.
In normal times, oral and musical examinations for leaving the degree are conducted during the semester period.
However, The Irish Times is aware that plans are being finalized to take oral exams in Irish and Modern Languages, along with practical performance exams in Music, from Thursday 7 April to Friday 15 April.
This will see testing take place on weekends and during the first week of the Easter holiday.
The proposal has been discussed with school administrators and teachers’ unions and the final plan is due to be discussed at the Education Partners meeting on Monday. If signed, the declaration will be due soon.
The move is being planned due to the volume of teachers absent on sick leave or self-isolating due to Covid-19.
Many post-primary schools struggle to find enough staff to teach and supervise classes and will not be able to release teachers to serve as examiners during term time.
Under the plans, junior course oral examinations and practical performance tests in music and home economics will continue during the term.
Understandably, enhanced pay rates are also being explored for teachers who choose to work as examiners.
Even in the pre-Covid years, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) struggled to find enough applicants to fill examinee positions via all assessment methods including oral and practical exams.
One potential logistical barrier includes music teachers who often play accompaniment with their students on practical performance exams, and may have difficulty making themselves available.
However, education sources say this can be addressed through flexible scheduling.
Last year, oral examinations were conducted during the Easter holiday period for the first time in a move aimed at mitigating the risks of Covid-19.
Under this contingency form, oral examinations were administered by a school-appointed teacher and were audio-recorded. The recordings were returned to the SEC for correction by the examiners.
However, next year’s plan is to return to the regular oral examinations which are conducted by visiting examinees.
The Irish Times reported last month that the idea of using the Easter holiday for oral exams was under consideration in light of the teacher shortage.
The timetables and timetables for the 2022 exams are still under development, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) said in a statement at the time.
It would be the subject of consultation and engagement with stakeholders, he said, “taking into account everyone’s views and taking into account prevailing conditions and public health advice.”
“The health and safety of candidates, school staff and examinees will be at the forefront of these considerations,” she added.
The SEC says it is counting on the cooperation of school leaders and staff to successfully deliver these tests.
The Supreme Education Council needs suitably qualified teachers to take the job examination in sufficient numbers. In addition, the SEC needs school leaders, principals, and deputy principals to encourage their teachers to apply and relieve them of their teaching duties if they are successful in their applications.”