The Department of Education has announced changes to the format of next year's Leaving and Junior Certificate exams and course work.

It said this is to reflect and recognise, in a fair manner, the loss of learning time that students have suffered as a result of school closures since 13 March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The measures also take into account the possibility of future learning loss over the coming year. 

While the overall structure of the Leaving Certificate exam papers will be maintained, students will be offered additional choices in questions they are required to answer. 

For example, in English Higher Level paper 2, students will be asked to answer one out of five prescribed poetry questions, as opposed to one out of four.  

There is a similar widening of options across other subjects. They have been set out in detail in a document published by the department today. 

There will be no changes made to the length of the written exams.  

Regarding projects to be completed by students during the school year as part of their assessment process, the Department said the State Examinations Commission intends to issue project briefs at least four weeks earlier than normal.  

Subjects with course work completion dates typically due later in the school year will be asked to submit this course work two weeks' earlier than normal as a contingency measure.  

The number of Classroom Based Assessments (CBAs) to be completed by Junior Certificate students due to sit the exam in 2021 has been reduced from two to one per subject. 

The dates for the completion of CBA1 for these students has been extended into the new school year. They will also not be required to complete Assessment Tasks for the relevant subjects.

There has been growing anxiety among students - particular those going in to Leaving Cert - as well as their parents, as to how they will manage the assessment process after missing a significant amount of tuition time.

The Department of Education said in a statement that the new assessment arrangements are intended to provide "clarity, certainty and reassurance". 

The changes apply to both the Leaving Certificate Established and Applied programmes.

Full details of all the changes to both the Leaving and Junior Cert next year can be found here.