ARRANGMENTS FOR THE POSTPONED STATE EXAMINATIONS 2020
The purpose of this circular is to provide schools with an overview of the SEC’s plans for the postponed 2020 examinations, which include the Junior Cycle, Leaving Certificate Established, Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) to take place in mid-November, commencing on Monday 16th November. More detailed information will follow in due course.
These plans have been necessarily drawn up at this juncture in the absence of data on candidate entry due to the scale and scope generally of the operation of the state examinations, and to allow for maximum flexibility in the current circumstances arising from the impact nationally of COVID-19. The overall and specific arrangements will also continue to be subject to the overriding requirements of public health advice. Summary
The examinations are scheduled for evenings and at weekends with candidates sitting their examination(s) in the school where they had been entered or scheduled to sit the examinations in June 2020. In making these plans, a core objective of the SEC is to minimise disruption and impact at school level to the greatest extent possible. This Circular sets out the range of resources to be made available to schools to address the planning, delivery and additional costs associated with the operation of the examinations for the examination classes of 2020.
Subject to public health advice, the examinations will commence on Monday 16th November and will run each evening and at weekends over a four-week period to Friday 11th December 2020
As you are aware, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Leaving Certificate candidates were offered the option of receiving Calculated Grades and/or sitting Leaving Certificate written examinations at a later date when it was considered safe to do so.
Leaving Certificate candidates who are not satisfied with their Calculated Grades, including those who have appealed their Calculated Grade/s or who were not in a position to receive a Calculated Grade, may opt to sit written examinations. The examinations are also open to candidates who opted not to receive Calculated Grades.
Those students who received Calculated Grades and who now sit Leaving Certificate 2020 will be credited with the higher subject grade achieved between the Calculated Grade and the written examination.
In the case of the Junior Cycle examinations, these are being made available to adult learners and to early school leavers who had been entered for the June 2020 examinations and who have neither returned to school nor commenced a formal alternative educational pathway.
Students taking the postponed examinations will be graded on the basis of their written papers only, other than in the case of 5 Leaving Certificate subjects and Junior Certificate Home Economics as the practical coursework components had been completed prior to school closure in mid-March, and will now be included in the grading of these subjects. The written examinations will be based on the normal question paper format, content and structure, and duration as in previous years. Examinations with two written question papers will continue to have two papers.
The examinations will commence on Monday, 16th November 2020 and will take place over a 4- week period to Friday, 11th December 2020 in the case of the Leaving Certificate in order to accommodate each of the June examination sessions, along with LCVP and the two papers in Computer Science which had been scheduled for May. The LCA examinations, including the LCA ICT Specialism examination, conclude on 28th November and the Junior Cycle examinations on 30th November. The timetables are being published on the SEC website www.examinations.ie.
The examinations will take place with one examination session on weekday evenings and two examination sessions on each day of the weekends.
The examinations are scheduled to start at 5.30pm each weekday evening, and at 9:30am and 2pm at the weekends.
It is intended that candidates will take the examinations in their own school, i.e. the school in which they were entered for or scheduled to sit the June 2020 examinations.
Candidates will be required to attend at the school 15 minutes before the start of each examination and to sign an attendance/centre roll to confirm their attendance and for contact tracing purposes. Candidates will be required to bring photographic ID to each examination session.
Format of Examinations
Candidates will be provided with written examinations only, including the aural tests in Music and language subjects, and use of DVDs in LCA and LCVP. The written examinations will be based on the normal question paper format, content and structure, and duration as in previous years. Candidates taking the postponed examinations will be graded on the basis of their written papers only It is not feasible at this stage to conduct examinations in oral or practical components, or to try to complete unfinished coursework. The oral and practical components of the exams are school- based, requiring significant levels of support at school level, including the requirement to take serving teachers out of their schools to undertake state examinations work.
In the case of five Leaving Certificate subjects, the coursework involved will be marked as this had been completed prior to school closure and these marks will be included in the grading of these subjects. These are:
· Home Economics journals (already marked by the SEC);
· LCVP Portfolio;
· Design and Communication Graphics coursework;
· Physical Education (PE) Physical Activity Project;
· Engineering coursework.
An earlier arrangement, communicated in March, that full marks would be awarded in respect of oral language and Music performance tests, was cancelled when the summer examinations were postponed on 8 May and the system of Calculated Grades was introduced. The March announcement was intended to support the running of all other examination components in the normal fashion as part of a response to the emergency situation relating to Covid-19 at the time.
Candidates are not being automatically awarded full marks in respect of any examination component in the Calculated Grades system. Accordingly, it would not be appropriate or fair to now award full marks for some examination components in the interest of inter-candidate equity between those sitting a later examination and those receiving a Calculated Grade.
How to Apply to sit Examinations
In the case of the Leaving Certificate, candidates who wish to sit an examinations(s) in November, will be given the opportunity to apply through the Candidate Portal used for the Calculated Grades process, which will open at 9am on Monday 28th September and close at 5pm on Friday 2nd October.
LCA Year 2 candidates will be asked to contact SEC directly using the dedicated email address LCA2020exams@examinations.ie if they wish to sit an examination(s).
The Department of Education and Skills (DES) will contact schools in the coming days regarding the cohort of early school leavers who had been entered for the June 2020 Junior Cycle examinations and who have neither returned to school nor commenced a formal alternative educational pathway. The Department will ask schools to contact this cohort of former students to ascertain if they wish to sit an examination(s) and to then contact the SEC for appropriate documentation to facilitate entries for the examinations by Wednesday 7th October.
In the case of adult learners who will be offered the opportunity to take a Junior Cycle examination in November, the SEC already has details of these entrants for the 2020 Junior Cycle examinations and will be in contact with the particular schools/centres involved with a view to identifying entrants for the November examinations, again for return to SEC by Wednesday 7th October.
SEC will process this data across the 3 examination programmes and notify schools of the entrants from the school to allow for the necessary planning for the examination sessions at an individual school level.
There will be no fees charged for sitting these examinations.
Candidates who have been approved the use of reasonable accommodation(s) for the June examinations will have access to this resource in November, eg a spelling and grammar waiver, or access to a reader, scribe or special centre.
It is not possible to approve new applications for reasonable accommodation in any other circumstances, other than the normal emergency application process which applies each year. SEC will issue further instructions in this regard closer to the examinations.
The SEC will assign candidates to take their examinations in their own school and not to an individual centre within the school. This is to allow school authorities maximum flexibility in terms of the actual management of the examinations at school level.,
In terms of the operation of the examinations, the SEC intends to appoint to each school an external superintendent to deal with the distribution of the examination papers and the management of attendance data associated with the examinations, and to return the completed examination material to the SEC following each examination session. This external superintendent will not invigilate any examination session due to the scale and scope of their responsibilities.
SEC will not be running a separate recruitment campaign for superintendents, rather it will draw these superintendents from the pool of applicants for the 2020 examinations such that this has no impact on the availability of teachers for normal school work.
Superintendents to invigilate the examinations
Superintendents will be appointed by schools to invigilate all examinations, similar to arrangements for special centres in previous years. Accordingly, schools will deploy superintendents to both main and special centres. Attendants
Attendants are routinely appointed by schools each year to assist superintendents in their role in terms of accompanying candidates to the toilets and liaising with school authorities on behalf of the superintendent. SEC is allowing schools flexibility regarding the appointment of attendants to main centres, not special centres, on a needs basis for the November examinations, and to claim for this from the SEC in due course. Examination Aide
The SEC is acutely conscious of the additional load on schools associated with the hosting of the examinations at a time when very considerable time and attention is required for the normal operation of the schools at this time of COVID-19.
Consequently, the SEC intends to make support and resources available to schools to minimise the impact on school management and resources generally, as follows
· Pre-planning for the November examinations – appointment by the school of an Examination Aide (EA) for 13 days
· Logistical support for the conduct of the examinations in schools over the course of the timetable for that school – schools can appoint an Examination Aide for each day of examinations, be it on a weekday evening or weekend day. This EA will be paid a daily rate in respect of each evening/weekend day.
· Additional costs associated with heating, cleaning, caretaking and PPE within schools associated with the examinations taking place in the evenings and at weekends will be provided by SEC.
As always, schools will appoint the Examination Aides in line with the existing methodology at individual school level.
Roles and Responsibilities of the Examinations Aides
The Examination Aide (EA) dealing with pre-planning and organising for the examinations in advance of November does not need to be the same person as the EA appointed for the logistical support for the examinations from 16th November onwards. Should a school have a large number of candidates wishing to sit the 2020 examinations and/or a large spread of examination sessions over the course of the timetable, schools may choose to split the logistical support role over a number of school staff during the course of the examinations.
Indicative list of roles and responsibilities:
Most of the work of this EA will take place in advance of the examinations commencing on 16 th November. Working under the overall guidance of the principal and deputy principal management team, this EA will exercise initiative in meeting the range of responsibilities set out below:
· The EA will be responsible for assigning students to the centres to be used for the examinations on a session by session basis, and to special centres where appropriate.
· The EA will be involved in the recruitment within the school of the superintendents required for each individual examination session across the rooms involved, encompassing both main examination centres (including for aural tests) and special centres. The EA will be conscious of the most appropriate use of space in the context of the school infrastructure and local demands regarding cleaning, sanitising arrangements and the need for school infrastructure to be available for normal school use the following day.
· The EA will draw up a list of examination superintendents and stand-by examination superintendents to cover the period of examinations within the school.
· This EA will organise the receipt of and safe storage of examination stationery, to issue from SEC in advance of the examinations
· This EA will be responsible for the collection of the locked question paper boxes from a SEC-designated distribution centre and for the safe return of this material to schools and its safe storage on the school premises.
· In the interest of risk management and examination security, there will be 3 distribution events where papers will be collected by the EA:
– on Sunday 15th Nov (containing the papers for examinations scheduled from 16th to 22nd Nov);
– on 22nd November for examinations scheduled from 23rd to 29th ; and
– on 29th Nov for the remaining examinations in that school.
SEC will meet the expense costs incurred by the EA in undertaking this aspect of the role.
Logistical Support Role
This EA will be responsible for the conduct of the examinations on the weekday evenings and at weekends over the course of the schedule. As outlined earlier, this may be a different person as the schedule is rolled out. The range of responsibilities are set out below:
· This EA will ensure that the classrooms or other spaces are prepared for the examinations before each session, including arrangements for the necessary cleaning, sanitising etc, and, in turn, that these spaces are left ready for normal school use at the conclusion of each examination session, including cleaning, sanitising etc.
· Where appropriate depending on local school arrangements, this EA will also ensure that the school premises are locked up and the alarm set as required.
· Meet the students on arrival and direct them to where their examination will take place.
· Liaise with SEC-appointed superintendent to allow this superintendent access to the locked question paper box held in the school’s secure location.
· Assist the SEC superintendent in completing the necessary paperwork associated with confirming actual attendance and the levels taken.
Public Health Guidance
Recognising that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a very fluid situation nationally, the SEC will in due course issue guidance to schools regarding any additional public health issues associated with the operation of the examinations. In addition, guidance will issue to candidates intending to take the examinations regarding their individual responsibilities.
Recoupment of Costs from SEC
In due course schools will be asked to claim the costs incurred for the November Examinations from the SEC, to include the Examinations Aides, school appointed Superintendents, Attendants, light, heat, caretaking and cleaning.
The SEC will be issuing further detailed guidance to schools on all of these matters closer to the start of the examinations, along with the arrangements for the marking of the examinations and appeals processes.
In the meantime, if you have any queries please contact the SEC by email on November2020@examinations.ie or by calling the SEC on 1800 111 135 or 1800 111 136.
The SEC wishes to express its thanks to school authorities for hosting these examinations on behalf of their students from 2020.
Catriona Hanevy Principal Officer
State Examinations Commission 25 September 2020
Email: email@example.com Web: www.examinations.ie.