Changes to CAO points system on cards for 2017 exams
A new CAO points system for college entry is set to be introduced for students sitting the Leaving Certificate in 2017.
One key change aims to reward students who take higher level papers but narrowly miss a "pass", by awarding points for a mark of between 30-39pc on an "honours" paper.
The package of reforms also includes a new scale for converting grades into points, to allow for greater differentiation between CAO applicants when it comes to selection for college courses.
So, instead of the typical difference of five CAO points between existing grade bands, the gap could be 10 points or more, and it will vary between bands.
Reform of the points system has been under discussion for some years with a view to finding ways to ease the pressure on students, without compromising academic standards.
The 2017 Leaving Certificate is the target date for the introduction of change, but there has been concern that any reform must be carefully considered.
Presidents of the universities and institutes of technology have now agreed a set of proposals to put to their academic councils for approval.
If the changes are to be made in 2017, schools need to know by September, so incoming fifth- year students understand what is involved.
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan is expected to brief the Cabinet on latest developments tomorrow and the education partners on Wednesday.
A new, variable scale for converting higher level grades into points and recognition for candidates who score between 30pc-39pc on a higher level paper are among a basket of inter-linked measures under consideration.
The replacement of the existing ABC grading system will also be a feature.
Instead of 14 different bands, from A1 and A2 down to NG (no grade), the plan is for eight bands: H1-H8 at higher level, and O1-08 at ordinary level.
While an existing higher level A1 will correspond to a new H1, other bands will be wider with, for instance, a H2 incorporating the current A2 and B1.
Crucially, there will not be a standard points differential between the bands.
There is no final decision yet, but, there could be 12 (or more) points between a H1 and H2, 11 (or more) between a H2 and H3, 10 (or more) between a H3 and H4, nine (or more) between a H4 and H5 and eight (or more) between a H5 and H6.
In the proposed new higher level scale, H7 would represent a mark of between 30pc-39pc and would attract points similar to those awarded for the proposed O3-04 at ordinary level.
The new scales are intended to allow for greater distinctions between CAO applicants and minimise the random selection that occurs when too many students chasing the same course achieve the minimum points.
They are directly linked to moves to have fewer and broader entry routes, such as common first-year science or engineering, with students specialising later in their studies.
Broader first-year programmes generally mean more applicants achieve the minimum points and places are therefore awarded randomly.