Bereaved Leaving Cert Students Can Sit Exams in July

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Bereaved Leaving Cert Students New Pilot Scheme
Bereaved Leaving Cert Students New Pilot Scheme

Pilot scheme will allow bereaved students to sit alternative Leaving Cert paper in July

Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. today (Friday 31 May) announced new provisions allowing Leaving Certificate students who suffer a close family bereavement during the state examinations in June to sit alternative papers in July.

Under the new approach a special alternative sitting of examinations is to be made available to bereaved students, if required.

The decision has been taken by Minister McHugh after he requested a review in January into how students are supported in the wake of the death of a close family member during the state examinations.

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) examined the scheme of Reasonable Accommodations at the Certificate Examinations (RACE) which provides assistance to candidates with special needs in state examinations. The interim measures are being announced today on a pilot basis and represent an important enhancement to the existing provisions.

Minister McHugh said: “I called for the review of this issue after hearing the compelling interview of Rhona Butler with Ryan Tubridy several months ago. I want to thank Rhona again for highlighting this issue and demonstrating how we should look after and support students who have suffered a loss.

“The death of a loved one is a deeply traumatic event for any young person, which will only be compounded if it occurs in the midst of exams.

“The Leaving Certificate plays a hugely important role in our education system and in the progression of our young people. We have a duty to take reasonable measures to support young people who suffer loss at such an important time for them.  My hope is that the new initiative will go a small way to easing the burden and stress of bereavement and giving students space to focus on their family.”

In reviewing the provision made for students who suffer trauma and adversity at the time of the examination, the SEC considered provision for those who are necessarily absent from some of their examinations following the death of a close relative at the time of the examinations.

The main details of the pilot scheme for 2019, informed by the recommendations, are as follows:

:: Leaving Certificate and Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) candidates who are absent from some of their examinations as a consequence of the death of a close relative at the time of the examinations will be allowed sit an alternative paper in those subjects in early July.

:: The scheme will allow for a student to be absent from exams for a three-day period during the June written state examination timetable.

:: The three day period will commence from the date of the death of a close relative up to and including the day after the funeral. These three days do not need to be consecutive.

:: The three day period is intended to allow bereaved candidates time free from Leaving Certificate examinations to prepare for and attend the funeral of their loved one.

:: The measures will apply in cases where the death of the close relative occurs during exam time, or in the two days prior to the exams commencing on 5th June.

:: The scheme defines a close relative as a father, step-father, mother, step-mother, legal guardian, brother, step-brother, half-brother, sister, step-sister, half-sister, grandfather or grandmother. 

:: The scheme will also provide for the death of a son or daughter, wife or husband or civil partner of a Leaving Certificate candidate.

:: The alternative sittings will take place over five days – Monday 8th July – Friday 12th July, 2019. The exam centre will be in Athlone this year.

:: The scheme is being introduced on an interim and pilot basis. It will be reviewed following the 2019 Leaving Certificate.

:: A student who suffers a bereavement and who wishes to take particular exams during the alternative July sittings cannot also sit those same exams during the original June sittings.

:: The results from the alternative Leaving Certificate examinations will be available at the same time as the main examination results, on 13th August in 2019.

:: The SEC will continue to provide the same supports to candidates suffering trauma and adversity during their examinations as in previous years (see notes).

The Current RACE scheme

The State Examinations Commission’s Scheme of Reasonable Accommodations at the Certificate Examinations is referred to as the RACE scheme.

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) operates the RACE scheme to accommodate candidates who suffer bereavement, illness or other trauma either immediately before or during the examinations.

Each year, arrangements are made to cater for a wide range of emergencies. These include alterations to the standard examination timetable and special sittings in venues such as hospitals.

Until now, the range of measures available to support students who experienced the death of a close family member was limited and could see a student attending the funeral of their loved one having sat an examination beforehand or returning from the funeral to sit an examination afterwards. 

Under these arrangements, which will continue to operate in tandem with the new arrangements, the SEC can arrange an early or a late sitting of an examination in order for a student to attend the funeral of a close family member on the scheduled date of the examination.

SEC can also arrange for them to sit their examinations in a smaller special exam centre and provide them with supervised rest breaks during their examinations. Examination superintendents are permitted to allow candidates take medicine, food or drinks into the examination centre where this is required for medical reasons. A superintendent can also allow a candidate to move within the examination centre.

In the interests of inter-candidate equity and the integrity of the state examinations, candidates for whom alterations to the timetable are approved by the SEC must be supervised by the school authorities to ensure that they have not had access to the content of the question papers. This can include being accompanied to a funeral by a member of the school staff in order to maintain the integrity of the examination process. Accordingly it has only been possible to date to facilitate an alteration to the timetable on the day scheduled for that examination.

Consultation will take place with stakeholders during the review of the enhanced scheme announced today in relation to the broader application of these enhancements to the RACE model in terms of leaving Certificate and LCA candidates necessarily absent from an examination on foot of certain other criteria to be defined, primarily illness.

The SEC will be in contact with schools later today with the full details of how the scheme will operate this year.