The Minister for Education has called for "a heightened awareness and consciousness" around public health protocols for Leaving Certificate students and their families and friendship networks over the coming weeks.

With three weeks to go before the exams begin, Norma Foley said students had done "an amazing job".

"Everything they have been asked to do they have done it with enormous good will and generosity," she said.

Visiting Pobalscoil Neasáin in Dublin, where more than 100 students will sit the exams, Ms Foley warned of "a critical period ahead" and urged students and those they mix with to continue to keep social distance, wear masks, and reduce contacts in advance of the exams.

School leaders say that risk will continue as the exams get under way.

Principal of Pobalscoil Neasáin Pat McKenna says it will be crucial that any student who experiences symptoms during the exams alerts the school authorities immediately.

"It is hugely important for the students themselves but also for their classmates and their friends. It is acting in the best interests of everybody, because the effect of bringing in an infected case could be detrimental to the whole school."

Students told RTÉ News that after a stressful year they now felt a little more at ease.

They said it was reassuring to have the fallback of accredited grades, should an exam not go their way.

Pobalscoil Neasáin Leaving Certificate student Rachelle Biayi told RTÉ News that students had grown during what was a difficult year.

"Online schooling was really hard for everyone because there was no structure, but I think that all of that has really matured us in some kind of way. We all took responsibility. We all grew from that experience."

Yesterday, secondary school managers also appealed to Leaving Certificate students and their families to make an extra effort to abide by public health guidelines over the coming weeks as the State exams approach.