GCSE, AS and A-level schools examinations in Northern Ireland are not likely to go ahead this year, PA news agency understands.
Stormont Education Minister Peter Weir is due to make an announcement in Stormont’s Assembly later on Wednesday.
It comes amid stricter lockdown measures to stop a rise in transmission of coronavirus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by new cases.
Sinn Fein’s education spokesperson Karen Mullan said: “This decision not to go ahead with this year’s GCSE, AS and A-level because of the pandemic and the disruption to young people’s education is the right thing to do.
“Exams are stressful at any time but this year young people have been placed under so much more stress and worry as a result of Covid and its impact on their education.
“We now need to see the Education Minister bring forward credible alternative arrangements which avoid the debacle of last year and recognise the hard work put in by both students and teachers.”
Schooling has dominated the debate over Northern Ireland’s tighter new measures.
January’s tests for pupils seeking to transfer from primary to grammars were cancelled on Tuesday but hours later a date was set in February.
Schools in Northern Ireland will be required to provide remote learning to pupils until the half-term break in mid-February, the education minister has already said.
Special schools will remain open as normal.
Vulnerable children and children of key workers will have access to schools for supervised learning.
Other new restrictions to combat the pandemic have been agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive.
Stay-at-home advice is to be put into legislation from midnight on Thursday, with additional powers being given to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to enforce the measures.
Household mixing will be reduced to just one other household or social bubble.
People need to follow tough new rules carefully to prevent the spread of the highly infectious variant of coronavirus, Northern Ireland’s chief scientific adviser has warned.
A spike in hospital admissions is not expected to peak until the final two weeks of January, Professor Ian Young added.
He attributed the rise mainly to increased socialising before fresh lockdown measures rather than the virus mutation prevalent in southern England.
He said he was less certain that existing vaccines would work against a South African variant but it was not yet widely present in the UK.
Prof Young said: “The existing mitigations need to be adhered to particularly carefully to reduce transmission of the virus.”
The reproductive number of the virus – or R value – is approaching 1.8 and hospitals are at full capacity.
Belfast’s Nightingale hospital is being expanded.
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