The State Exams Commissions (SEC) have today published details on the eligibility criteria for the deferred sittings of Leaving Cert examinations which are being introduced in 2022.
Deferred sittings on medical grounds is an issue that Epilepsy Ireland has campaigned on for several years, as outlined in the 'Advocacy' section or our website. We have argued that if a student has a seizure before or during their exam and is unable to complete it as a result, they should be given a further opportunity to take that exam within the same cycle.
Today’s announcement is a welcome development for students with epilepsy as the criteria specifically recognises epilepsy as a “type of serious accident, Injury or Illness” which will warrant access to the deferred series of exams.
Students who are unable to sit an exam due to a seizure prior to the exam can now apply to the SEC for a deferred sitting later in June.
The application process for deferred exams in all cases is school based and is not an automatic entitlement. Candidates or parents/guardians should contact the school to report an absence on or before the date and time of the first examination from which the candidate is absent. The school is required to make an initial application (online) to the SEC on the same day. Both the school and the candidate and/or parent/ guardian must complete a declaration as part of the application. Medical evidence for the reason behind the absence must then be submitted to the SEC within 4 working days of the date of the initial application.
Several conditions and caveats apply, which are detailed in the circulars and documents below.
When the provision of a deferred sitting was first announced in June 2021, we had hoped that it would spell the end of this long-standing issue facing hundreds of students with epilepsy each year. However, today’s announcement – while a step in the right direction – does not fully resolve all of the issues for these students.
Most importantly, if a student has a seizure during an exam, they will not be able to access to the deferred sitting. The reasons behind this decision is to protect the integrity of the exams, according to the SEC.
In addition, we have concerns about some of the practicalities outlined in today’s documentation:
- Medical evidence can be accepted from Consultants only (not a GP or other professional) and must be uploaded to the SEC portal within 4 days. This is an extremely short window given the pressures on the neurology service and the possibility that consultants may be unavailable e.g. other work commitments; annual leave etc. There is also a possibility that a small number of students may not be under the care of a consultant at present.
- There is a requirement for the school; parents/guardians & candidates to sign the application form on day of the missed exam. Depending on the nature of the medical issue, it is possible that the student and/or parent/guardian would be unable to sign the declaration for the deferred examination – e.g. if the person is hospitalised, admitted to ICU or transferred to another hospital.
We are seeking clarification from the SEC on these issues and will provide any further update received as soon as possible. However, with the Leaving Cert exams beginning next week, these concerns/issues are unfortunately unlikely to be resolved for this year’s sitting.
Notwithstanding today’s welcome announcement, we will continue to engage with the SEC to have these matters addressed for next year’s students. In the meantime, we would like to thank our members, supporters, volunteers and all the TDs, Senators and Councillors who have helped support our long-standing campaign and who have made today’s announcement possible.
We have attached the associated documents for the arrangements of the deferred Leaving Cert sitting below, including:
- Circular to all schools on deferred sittings
- Information note regarding Covid-19 and deferred sittings
- Guidance note for parents, guardians and candidates on the deferred sitting of the Leaving Cert
With exams starting next week, we would encourage students/ parents/ guardians with any queries on the new provisions to contact the SEC’s Deferred Examinations Section directly at 090-644 2783 or email@example.com. Please also connect with your local Epilepsy Ireland office if we can advise or assist - see the details of your local Community Resource Officer in the 'Our Services' section of our website.
If you are a student with epilepsy sitting the Leaving Cert exam or a parent/guardian of a student with epilepsy and have comments on what has been announced/further issues which should be considered, we would be interested in hearing from you. Please email our Advocacy & Communications Manager Paddy McGeoghegan on firstname.lastname@example.org.