Saturday 27 May 2017

Fresh blow for FAS in two new exam-marking controversies

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

STATE training agency FAS is at the centre of a new marking scandal after irregularities were discovered with two more of its courses, the Irish Independent has learned.

Students on both courses have had to undergo retraining and resit exams in the past month after discrepancies were found with exam results.

FAS said it discovered marking criteria had not been followed in some of the exams.

The revelation comes as a fresh blow to the reputation of the courses run by the embattled agency, which has been engulfed in a series of controversies in the past two years.

The courses were contracted to an outside company, Wexford- and Dublin-based Daralinn Training and Consultancy.

The development comes just six months after the Irish Independent revealed that a tutor from another firm, Ashfield Computer Training, changed assessment results so students could pass exams.

Problems were found with four courses run by Ashfield in the north-east. FAS subsequently stopped using the firm and it went into liquidation.

However, Daralinn was not blacklisted and is continuing to provide services for FAS.

The latest exam discrepancies were discovered by a FAS staff member carrying out routine monitoring procedures.

They found problems with the results of students who took courses in warehouse operations and forklift truck-driving run by Daralinn in Cavan and Drogheda.

Irate

Representatives of FAS and Daralinn subsequently met with affected students to inform them. Sources said a number of students became irate at the meetings.

Some of the students underwent retraining last month and had to resit some exams. They have yet to be issued with qualification certificates. FAS said the taxpayer would not be hit with the costs for the retraining and exam resits, which are being covered by Daralinn.

Louth Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd, who has raised the issue of FAS training-course irregularities in the Dail, described the latest revelations as "deeply worrying".

"This is another set of courses where serious issues have arisen. People have had to be retrained and do exams all over again. There is a lot of anger over this," he said.

In a statement, Daralinn director Donal McDonald admitted: "There was an error which was rectified at no cost to FAS. Daralinn is a responsible training company and wherever errors are made, a corrective action is put in place."

Since the Ashfield revelations last October, FAS has mounted a nationwide review of all 257 courses it contracts to outside companies. A new type of contract is being introduced, which will have strengthened clauses to allow FAS to sanction contractors who don't perform to the highest standard.

Last week FAS director general Paul O'Toole said the agency had found "a handful" of cases where course results were deliberately manipulated. He said the agency had rooted out most of the problems but there were still some remaining.

Irish Independent

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