Minister for Education Joe McHugh has asked second-level schools to hold-off on making decision regarding assessment arrangements for Junior Cycle students until a collective agreement as to how to proceed is reached with education partners.

Three schools have announced this week that they will not be participating in tests planned for autumn which will replace the traditional Junior Certificate exams.

Earlier this month, the Junior Certificate exams were cancelled. The Department said the State Examinations Commission will send exam papers it has prepared to schools so that they can be used in school-based exams that individual schools will organise in the autumn.

These exams are not going to be certified State exams.

However, problems have emerged with this model; chief among them that if schools are to hold the exams on different days, students in some schools will become aware of what is coming up in the papers.

Three schools in Galway, Kilkenny and Limerick have already announced that they will not be participating in this arrangement, preferring to hold end-of-year assessments for third-year students in the coming weeks instead. Other schools were expected to follow suit.

This evening, Mr McHugh has urged schools to await the conclusion of discussions that are taking place this week between his department and student, parent, school management and union representatives.

He said the issues were quite complex and required detailed consideration, and that students needed as much clarity as soon as possible. He said the best way to address the issue of Junior Cycle exams is to allow this group to have further discussions, in the best interests of this year's Junior Cycle students.

"I would urge schools to await the conclusion of these discussions with the education partners before taking any decisions regarding assessment arrangements for their Junior Cycle students," he said.

On Monday, Coláiste Bhaile Chláir became the first school to tell students it would hold May end-of-year assessments for third-year students instead.

A second school, Presentation Secondary School in Kilkenny city, today said it would do likewise.

The school said it did not want its 160 Junior Cert students to be stressed and their mental health suffer as a result of having exams looming over the summer months.

Principal of the all-girls Kilkenny Presentation school, Shane Hallahan, said his school's decision followed consultation with staff, the school Board of Management and other experts.

The school will measure student's progress and award results using a combination of average results from Christmas exams, mocks, projects, and other assessments.

"We do not wish to see students over the summer months caught up inside preparing for exams," Mr Hallahan said. "There is already huge stress in households."

And a third secondary school has told students that it will be opting out of Junior Cycle exams.

Laurel Hill Coláiste in Limerick city has told students that they will be assessed over the next six weeks instead. 

In a Facebook posting the school said the wellbeing of its students was at the centre of its decision and it quoted responses from parents and students including one which reads "it's like a physical weight has been lifted".