Leaving Cert students are expected to be given the option of a modified version of calculated grades and sitting exams in June under plans being discussed by Cabinet Ministers today.
It is also likely that oral, practical and performance assessments will go ahead in the coming weeks, although in different formats.
The Junior Cert exams may also be cancelled to make way for a greater focus on facilitating the Leaving Cert.
Minister for Education Norma Foley is due to brief ministerial colleagues on developments later today during a meeting of the Cabinet committee on education.
A formal announcement on the format of the exams is likely as early as Wednesday.
The president and general secretary of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) have both indicated that their members are willing to cooperate with a return to school for Leaving Cert students next week.
Martin Marjoram, the president of the union, told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that he expected a decision on a date for a return to school to be made shortly. “We’re very keen to return to school when it is safe to do so.”
Talks with the Department of Education would continue today, he said, refusing to be drawn on the details of what he described as “a confidential process.”
On Newstalk Breakfast, the TUI’s general secretary Michael Gillespie said that a return to school for Leaving Cert students was a priority.
He said the TUI believed they should return on the same week as special needs students, February 22nd, once the number of Covid cases were going in the right direction.
He pointed out that if numbers in the community were low then Covid could be kept out of schools. But high levels of transmission in wider society would lead to more infections happening in schools.
It was not possible for Junior Cert and Leaving Cert exams to run in tandem which made the situation very complex, he said. Predicted grades were also difficult and would require a longer period of time. Ireland was the only jurisdiction trying to run parallel processes at the same time.
Students needed to be engaged and they needed to complete the curriculum, he added.
Reuben Murray of the Irish Second Level Students Association told Newstalk that students were expecting that they would have a choice between predicted grades and a written exam.
Mr Marjoram said the TUI wanted to see Leaving Cert students as the next group to return to school as he was concerned about the loss of motivation among students and the difficulties faced by many due to socio-economic circumstances and issues with infrastructure like broadband.
“We would like them to get back to school relatively early,” he said.