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Bumper Leaving Cert exam results to fuel rise in CAO points for college entry

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Leaving Cert students can look forward to a bumper set of results on Monday, but it will fuel a rise in points for college entry that will leave some disappointed.

The grades being awarded to about 57,000 students will be better overall than if they had sat the traditional Leaving Cert in June, although not as high as many teachers handed out.

However, the uplift in overall results - the exact level of which won't be known until Monday - was considered the less unpalatable choice.

In the extraordinary circumstances of this year, Education Minister Norma Foley opted to "prioritise fairness for the students of 2020 over eliminating grade inflation".

The minister's efforts included a late decision to drop the controversial use of schools' past performance in the Leaving Cert as a key measure in the process for calculating grades for 2020.

The effect of removing a school's prior academic performance meant greater reliance was placed on teachers' marks, while students' Junior Cert results were also used as a reference.

Ms Foley was mindful of the recent furore over A-Level results in the UK, after a similar measure was seen to be unfair to high-attaining pupils in schools in disadvantaged communities.

The Cabinet yesterday approved the removal of schools' academic track record from the equation. It cleared the way for results that Ms Foley acknowledged would now be fairer to students from disadvantaged communities.

The outcome of the calculated grades process will show that 83pc of students will receive a grade based on their teachers' estimate, or higher.

However, it emerged that teachers awarded more than double the number of top H1 grades in many subjects that would have been expected in traditional Leaving Cert exams. In some cases, there was a tripling of the number of H1s.

Such generosity was reined in during the process of national standardisation of results, overseen in the Department of Education, in the 17pc of school grades that were reduced.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland said it would keep an open mind until the results were released.

The Teachers' Union of Ireland said it trusted "that no student will be disadvantaged by the calculated grades process or by circumstances outside their control".

The data is still being finalised, but the Department has released trends for the 410,000 grades for the traditional Leaving Cert. Results for Leaving Cert Applied candidates are still being processed.

They show that, following standardisation, 79pc of school estimated grades were unchanged, 4pc of all school estimated grades increased, 16pc of school estimated grades were reduced by one grade, and 0.1pc of all schools grades were reduced by two or more grades.

Contrary to the UK experience, schools in the Department of Education's Deis scheme for disadvantaged communities were more likely to have their grades unchanged or increased.

The grade inflation that will emerge on Monday will see a rise in CAO points for many courses, but an opening of 1,250 extra college places will go some way to meeting student expectations.

While many CAO applicants with a 2020 Leaving Cert will have the benefit of higher points, those competing with them from previous years may be at a disadvantage.

The generous results this year will also play into the college selection process in 2021, and perhaps beyond, giving 2020 candidates a competitive edge.

The Department of Education felt it was a price worth paying to recognise the exceptional circumstances experienced by students, who were forced out of school in March and robbed of the opportunity to sit the June exams.

Final judgments on the outcome of the calculated grades process will not emerge until after the grades are released

However, the Irish Universities Association welcomed the "emphasis given to ensuring students are treated fairly".

The Technological Higher Education Association said they "were confident in, and supportive of, the approach adopted in the allocation of grades and in the provision of additional places in order to ensure students are treated fairly and equitably, regardless of the year in which they completed their second level education".

Helpline open from Monday

As the Leaving Cert results are released on Monday, the annual National Parents Council Helpline 1800 265 165 will open to offer advice and support to students and parents.

It will be staffed by members of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, who will provide a one-to-one service to callers. The helpline, which will run until Saturday, September 12, is sponsored by the Department of Education and the Irish Independent/Independent.ie and is supported by Susi and the GAA.


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