WINNIPEG -- Manitoba is suspending provincial exams in June for the province’s Grade 12 students.

According to an announcement from the Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS), Manitoba Education sent a letter to superintendents and principals informing them of the changes.

Manitoba also suspended Grade 12 provincial tests in English and math in January due to the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

MTS president James Bedford said in a statement that the group had been advocating for this suspension since July 2020.

He said this advocacy was based on workload, achievable expectations, the best use of instructional time, and sound assessment practise.

“Teachers are still being asked to do two jobs at once,” Bedford said.

“They are teaching both online and in the classroom at the same time, and sometimes to students spread across multiple classrooms.”

Bedford said on Thursday the suspension only impacts provincial exams. If a class requires an exam, it will still be written.

Manitoba Education said it is still committed to getting students learning in the classroom, but because of the pandemic, many students will continue with the blended-learning model that could transition to full-time remote learning for some schools.

The letter from Manitoba Education says having students write the provincial tests would raise questions about fairness and the validity of the data.

“The suspension of the tests in June 2021 will allow teachers to continue to focus on the COVID-19 learning and teaching response, and the mental health and well-being of students,” it said.

Education Minister Cliff Cullen, speaking during a news conference Thursday afternoon, said the province is still expecting teachers to be able to evaluate Grade 12 students, whether it is some sort of exam or test.

“With other jurisdictions moving in the same front, we feel that it would just be an extra burden on both students and teachers this year, given the COVID experience that we’re going through,” Cullen said. “It’s certainly unfortunate we have to do this. It’s not something that I would prefer.”

Provincial exams for Grade 12 students were also called off last summer in Manitoba due to the pandemic.