Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education, Thomas Byrne, has called for exam fees for Leaving Certificate examinations to be waived for pupils who are living in a house where a parent is unemployed or receiving a COVID-19 related payment.

Deputy Byrne made his comments after the Minister for Education announced that the Leaving Certificate was to be delayed until late July or early August while the Junior Certificate was to be replaced with classroom-based assessments.

Deputy Byrne also said that if a fee was being considered for the Junior Certificate classroom-based assessments, it should be similarly waived.

He said, “The closure of schools followed by the delay in exams has set students on an emotional rollercoaster. Those who are taking state exams in 2020 are dealing with issues which no generation has had to go through before.

“Many families have lost their income or are experiencing a reduction in earnings, while the unplanned transition to remote learning has meant that students have been forced to study in less than ideal situations.

“While Fianna Fáil support the decision of the Minister for Education to delay the exams until the end of the summer, the situation which has been created is one of great uncertainty. A whole host of issues have been thrown up which will need to be resolved in the coming weeks.

“The challenges faced by some pupils with special educational needs, the impact on offers of placement in some universities and the difficulty of maintaining focus on exams during the summer period are just some of the challenges students are facing.

“I believe that the waiving of exam fees should be extended to all pupils living in a household of someone who has been made unemployed or laid off as a result of COVID-19. This small measure could relieve some of the pressures placed on families of exam year students at this difficult time.

“Exam fees have been routinely waived for over one third of students in recent years. Given the unprecedented situation we’re in now this should be extended to those who need it most,” he concluded.