Minister for Education Norma Foley has sought to reassure students that delaying the Leaving Certificate results by three weeks will not have a negative impact on them.

Yesterday, it emerged that college entry for this year's Leaving Cert students is likely to be further delayed as a result of the later than usual release of results under the Calculated Grades process.

Students will receive results three weeks later than usual on 7 September.

They had expected to receive their results not too much later than the traditional mid-August date.

The delay has been attributed to the complexity of the new grading process.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Ms Foley said "everything is in place" and following the results now being released on 7 September, the CAO offers will made four days later. 

She said she has absolute confidence in that and said there had been incredible support and engagement through CAO. She also said the appeals process will run smoothly, despite the short timeframe.

The minister said: "They will facilitate the release of the results on the 7th with their offers coming on the 11th of September from the CAO, but also within that timeframe the UCAS offers, so there is no question or calls for concerns from students here.

"And equally so the appeals process will be turned around as quickly as possible so that students will be in a position to maximise the potential to take up another offer should that be the case."

She said she knows it is a time of "high anxiety", but she is very confident that the third level institutions are making their own arrangements around start dates for various courses. 

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When asked why she had not given the information about the new date for results yesterday when asked in the Dáil, the minister said it was her intention to inform partners in education first.

"As a matter of professionalism and courtesy it was them who should know first," she said.

She said they have been hugely engaged in this process, from the parents representatives to teachers and managerial bodies.

"All of them have facilitated this process to this point," the minister added.

While Minister Foley acknowledged the challenges of having the Calculated Grades system, she said it is important that the integrity of the Leaving Cert for the class of 2020 will be similar to that of 2019 and the years ahead.

Speaking to RTÉ News, the Minister said, "We must remember that we are talking about 61 thousand students, 450 thousand single individual results in terms of subjects, so the checks are rigorous."

"I know it might seem prolonged with issue of an additional 3 weeks, but I know students will have confidence that this is a robust system that this is a system of integrity and that their leaving cert stands against any leaving cert past or going forward,"  she said. 

The Minister said she has written to all the education spokespersons and that they will be fully briefed. 

Leaving Certificate results to be published 7 September

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said there remain lots of unanswered questions for Leaving Cert students that deserve clarification.

In a statement, he said: "I find it astonishing that the Minister Foley said on RTÉ Radio this morning that she didn't answer questions in Dáil on this because she wanted to tell stakeholders first.

"If that was the case, she doesn't seem to have discussed the matter with the key stakeholders in all of this - students themselves - and I note the statement of the Irish Second-Level Students' Union in this regard.

"While the Minister says that CAO and UCAS applications will be facilitated, there remains a lack of clarity for students who may be considering studies in other jurisdictions.

"We also need real clarity on how the results appeals process will work; especially with a very tight timeline in terms of CAO offers and the beginning of the academic year.

"What is most disappointing is the Minister's failure to acknowledge the complications that students and their families face in trying to start a third level course; like trying to find accommodation - this is not a paper exercise and there is a financial element to all of this too."

Meanwhile the Acting Chief Medical Officer said the reopening of schools at the end of the summer is an absolute core priority,

Dr Ronan Glynn said everything depends on the suppression of the virus over the next few weeks.

"A time of high uncertainty" was how the current Covid-19 situation was described yesterday, as 21 new cases of the coronavirus were reported and the 'R' number has risen to well above one.

The reproductive rate, or 'R number', indicates the number of people on average that an infected person will pass the virus on to.

However, speaking at the Department of Heath briefing, Dr Glynn said Ireland is still in a good position in terms of the disease, but people need to take more care and caution to continue to suppress its spread.

Dr Glynnn said the reopening of schools at the end of August is an absolute core priority and he said the international situation and experience is being closely monitored.

Additional reporting: Emma O Kelly