Press Release State Examinations Commission
10th April 2020 – Postponement of the Leaving Certificate and Junior Cycle
Following the closure of schools on the 13th March, the decision was made to cancel Leaving Certificate
oral tests and Leaving Certificate and Junior Cycle practical performance tests due to commence at
the end of March and to extend the closing date for the completion of project work and coursework
until the 15th May.
Since that time, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) and the Department of Education and Skills
have been closely monitoring the emerging public health situation and developing contingency plans.
Based on the latest advice from public health authorities, the Minister for Education and Skills, Joe
McHugh TD, has today announced the postponement of the remaining elements of the 2020 Leaving
Certificate and Junior Cycle examinations.
At Leaving Certificate, all final written examinations due to take place in May and June will be rescheduled to a new timetable commencing at end July/early August.
At Junior Cycle, the written examinations are postponed and will be rearranged as school based tests when schools reopen.
The SEC will be engaging with the education partners in putting in place arrangements for the safe conduct of the 2020 Leaving Certificate examinations acting at all times in accordance with the best available public health advice.
The decision to postpone the Junior Cycle examinations recognises the need to prioritise the running of the Leaving Certificate examinations in order to allow 6th year students to progress to higher and further education or to the world of work. Retaining all of the available space that was to be used for both sets of examinations will allow the SEC to significantly reduce the number of Leaving Certificate candidates in each examination centre. The SEC will be
making every effort to run the examinations as close to normal as possible and plans to publish the
July/August Leaving Certificate examinations timetable in early June, along with the other detailed
arrangements for the rescheduled examinations. At all stages, the health and safety of candidates,
examination superintendents, school staff and others involved in the delivery of the examinations
system will be at the forefront of the SEC’s approach.
In addition to the written examinations due to be held in June, there are also three terminal
examinations scheduled in May in the subjects LCVP Links Modules, LCA ICT Specialism and Computer
Science. These May examinations will now also be rescheduled to the July/August period.
The remaining elements of the 2020 Leaving Certificate examinations comprise;
• Project work and coursework in a range of subjects had been due for completion by 15th May,
which is now extended to immediately prior to the commencement of the written
examinations in the July/August period.
• Practical tests in Art, Engineering and Construction studies due to commence on 27th April and
the oral and practical performance tests in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme due to
take place in May, will now be rescheduled for the July/August period.
At Junior Cycle the SEC will provide schools with the examination papers and related materials they
need to deliver these tests when schools reopen. All of the remaining elements of the Junior Cycle,
project work, coursework and assessment tasks, will also be rescheduled to that time.
Delivering the state examinations each year requires a partnership approach between the SEC,
teachers, school principals and the education partners. The SEC will continue to engage
collaboratively with the education stakeholders and the Department of Education and Skills in the
weeks and months ahead. The SEC will continue to act in accordance with advice from Government
and public health authorities in relation to this evolving public health emergency.
Notes for Editors
The written examinations were due to commence on Wednesday 3rd June and conclude on the
Thursday 11th June at Leaving Certificate Applied; Tuesday 16th June at Junior Cycle and Tuesday 23rd
June in the case of the Leaving Certificate established and vocational programmes.
Over 126,000 students are due to take examinations this year; 61,063 at Leaving Certificate, including
2,999 Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students, and 65,190 at Junior Cycle.
The certificate examinations are held at 718 second-level schools and 102 non-school institutions such
as Youthreach and other further education centres; special schools; private colleges; prisons and
youth detention centres. Not all programmes (Leaving Certificate, Leaving Certificate Applied and
Junior Cycle) are provided in all institutions.
The key logistics involved in the delivery of the examinations annually includes
• Providing examinations to 126,953 candidates across all examination programmes; 65,190 at
Junior Cycle (JC), 58,064 at Leaving Certificate (LC), and 2,999 at Leaving Certificate Applied
• Establishing 5,200 main examination centres and 8,900 special examination centres in 820
distinct venues; 718 recognised secondary schools at 102 other institutions such as
VTOS/Youthreach centres; special schools; private colleges; and prisons/youth detention
• Arranging for examinations in 81 curricular (38 LC, 19 LCA and 24 JC) and 18 non-curricular
• Producing 4 million examination papers comprised of almost 47.7 million A4 pages packed
into c. 200,000 tamper-evident plastic envelopes.
• Engaging 5,400 superintendents and reserve superintendents for main examination centres.
• Providing exam access arrangements, under the scheme of reasonable accommodations
(RACE Scheme) to 20,000 candidates with special educational needs
• Accommodating 15,000 of these candidates in special examination centres; 6,700 individual
special centres and 2,200 shared special centres, requiring the appointment of 8,900 special
• Establishing examination centres in atypical locations on an emergency basis such as in
hospitals or in homes.
• Examining some 2 million individual test items including written examination scripts; art and
craft work pieces; physical, digital and audio-visual artefacts; oral tests; coursework journals,
research reports and portfolios.
• Recruiting and training almost 7,000 examiners to mark the examinations comprised of 4,400
written examiners, 1,100 oral examiners and 1,400 practical examiners.
• Processing some 20,000 appeals at Leaving Certificate, Leaving Certificate Applied and Junior
• Making 400,000 Leaving Certificate scripts available to candidates for viewing either in schools
Eela Carr Jackie Wade
Press Officer Deputy Press Officer
Phone 090 6442770 or 087 2830355 Phone 090 6442851 or 087 1804466
Impact of School Closures on Examination Activities – Frequently Asked Questions
Announcement on 10th April – Postponement of the Leaving Certificate and Junior
You may have heard about the decision to postpone this year’s Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate
examinations. At Leaving Certificate, all final written examinations due to take place in May and June
will be rescheduled to a new timetable commencing at end July/early August. At Junior Cycle, the
written examinations are postponed and will be rearranged as school based tests when schools
Below you’ll find a few questions and answers to try and explain what the changes mean, who is
affected by them and why this unprecedented action was taken. There is no perfect solution to the
difficulties our education system is facing as a result of school closures and the impact of measures to
stem the spread of Covid-19.
But these decisions are being taken with the best interests of students and their families in mind. We
know that this is a time of real stress and worry for you. In making these decisions we wanted to try
to provide some certainty about your examinations.
Why was this decision necessary?
The ongoing public health emergency means that at the moment we cannot be sure that it would be
safe to bring students together to sit their examinations as normal in June. Students need certainty
about the start of their examinations a number of weeks in advance, so acting on the best available
public health information, we believe that by the end of July, it will be possible to hold the Leaving
Certificate examinations under the conditions required by the public health authorities.
When will the new timetable be available?
Other than advising that the rescheduled Leaving Certificate examinations will commence in late
July/August it is not possible right now set out the examinations timetable. The public health situation
remains fluid and so decisions in respect of the details of running the examinations can only be made
closer to the commencement date. The SEC plans to issue these detailed arrangements to schools in
What advice would you give to Leaving Certificate students at this time?
You should continue to prepare for your examinations by engaging in the teaching and learning
arrangements that have been put in place for you by your school. We know that this is a really stressful
and challenging time, so we also recommend that you stay in touch and connected with your friends,
classmates and your teachers online and with your family for support. You also need to take rest and
a break from study over Easter and for at least two weeks in June.
Why are the Junior Cycle examinations postponed?
In line with public health restrictions, it is not possible to run both sets of examinations in schools
simultaneously and the decision reflects the priority given to running the Leaving Certificate
examinations so that students can transition to the next stage of their lives. Under normal examination
arrangements, examination candidates need far more space than students under normal classroom
conditions. Running the examinations typically utilises a significant amount of school accommodation
both as main examination centres and as special examination centres for candidates with special
educational needs. Retaining all of the examination centres but halving the number of candidates by
not running the Junior Cycle means that it will be possible to safely run the Leaving Certificate
examinations in line with the current public health guidelines.
Can the SEC not run the Junior Cycle examination when schools reopen?
Running these examinations centrally would create a significant level of disruption in schools at a time
when it is intended that school life will be returning to normal. The intention is that schools will have
flexibility over the running of these school-based examinations in the autumn.
Did you consider running the examinations on-line this year?
Running online examinations is neither a practically viable nor a desirable arrangement to make in
reaction to this issue without proper planning and in an unsupported environment of over 120,000
candidates not only sitting examinations online, but doing so from their homes. We need to ensure
that we can deliver examinations on a level playing pitch to all candidates and online delivery presents
very real issues of equity and fairness, as not all candidates have access to ICT, to broadband and to a
suitable location for taking examinations. There would also be very significant risks to the integrity of
the examination process.
What measures will be taken to protect the health and welfare of candidates coming to take their
examinations and the superintendents and other school staff involved in conducting the
examinations in schools?
We will strictly implement public health advice for candidates and superintendents including in special
examinations centres. In addition we will be working with the school stakeholders in the lead up to
the examinations to put in place necessary safeguards in schools at examinations time in order to
minimise the risk of infection, acting at all time on public health advice in the best interests of all
We are considering how best to support examination superintendents who have a critical role in the
delivery of the examinations which will include operational and procedural changes to safeguard their
health and wellbeing.
Last year there were alternative examinations for Leaving Certificate candidates who suffered a
bereavement at examinations time. Will there be alternative examinations this year?
It is likely that some candidates will be unable to take their examinations later in the summer due to
a family bereavement. Others may be unable to attend on health grounds, as they may be ill or in
quarantine or isolation. The SEC and the Department are considering appropriate alternative arrangements so that candidates in this situation are not disadvantaged compared to their peers.