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Errors found in Leaving Cert calculated grades system

Around 6,000 students are thought to be affected


Around 56,000 Leaving Cert students received their calculated grades earlier this month.  (stock photo)

Around 56,000 Leaving Cert students received their calculated grades earlier this month. (stock photo)

Around 56,000 Leaving Cert students received their calculated grades earlier this month. (stock photo)

ERRORS have been discovered with the Leaving Certificate calculated grades system with Minister for Education Norma Foley to make a significant announcement later on Wednesday, Independent.ie has learned.

Government sources say an emergency helpline is being set up and Minister Foley will make an announcement at the Department of Education at around 4pm along with an official from the State Exams Commission.

Sources say about 6,000 students can expect to benefit from upgrades as a result of the discovery, which is being attributed to a coding error.

The students involved will be treated as if they have succeeded in an appeal. Where the error has pointed to a student receiving a higher grade than warranted, there will be no negative impact.

The exact numbers of those impacted may not become clear until towards the end of the week.

This may mean that extra third-level places will need to be found for these students if there is a material difference to their points total as a result of their adjusted grades.

A senior Government source said: "This could be a very big problem or a minor headache that turns out to be several hundred or 1,000 students. Last year 3,000 students had a successful appeal and of them 600 needed a college place."

The source said there would possibly be some overlap with the over 12,000 students who have already filed appeals to the calculated grades issued earlier month.

The Government is bringing in an “independent external evaluation” of the whole process, the Taoiseach told the Dáil.

Students “may receive grade upgrades in some of their grades as a result of these errors. They have to be communicated with first,” Micheal Martin declared in the chamber.

A Government spokesperson said: "As per every Leaving Cert year, no student will receive a reduced grade in any subject as a result of this process. The principle of 'you have what you hold' will apply."

The move – to be explained to the House later today by Minister Foley – comes against the background of a welter of lawsuits by aggrieved parents on behalf of high-achieving students who have found themselves marked down.

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly asked what was happening on the question of re-checks, saying the Department had suddenly fallen silent and parents and students could get no answers.

Mr Martin said: “The Minister will be making a comprehensive statement on what has occurred, the measures taken to rectify that, the re-checking of that process, and bringing in independent external evaluation.”

It would be done “above all to make sure that we can ease as much anxiety as we can for the students themselves.

“The priority has to be the students themselves, in terms of how they receive this information.

“They may receive grade upgrades in some of their grades as a result of these errors. They have to be communicated with first.”

Around 56,000 Leaving Cert students received their calculated grades earlier this month.

They were based on a teacher-assessed grade before a standardisation process was carried out by the Department which resulted in around 17pc of grades given by schools being downgraded.

A number of court challenges have been filed against the system in recent weeks. The Department has also received over 12,000 appeals from students seeking rechecks of their calculated grades.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said on the RTE News at One that she “fully understood” the concern and worry that had been caused to students by the announcement.

"As the Taoiseach said in the Dáil, our priority will be to identify and inform any students whose grades were impacted by this. Our thoughts are with them obviously because it is concerning for them.

“I don't have any information at this stage, but I do understand that Minister Foley will be making a statement later today.

“But this is going to be a priority that we will deal with, as the Taoiseach has said."

Calculated grades had been “a massive undertaking,” she said, “and if there are issues we will get them sorted.”

Sinn Féin spokesman on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, said the Minister should be coming before the Dáil to answer questions because students had gone through “an appalling twelve months.”

He said the announcement had brought about “more trauma and stress” for the Leaving Cert class of 2020. The main question that arose was whether those who get upgrades would be able to access the college places they wanted.

National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) director Clive Byrne said it was crucial that the Department clarified the exact extent, consequences and corrective measures relating to the errors uncovered.

“The Leaving Cert class of 2020 participated in the calculated grades system with the upmost maturity and understanding. It is now vital that those students impacted by these errors are communicated with immediately and efficiently to alleviate concern where possible.”

Mr Byrne said there was also a need extend the deadline for students to register to sit a traditional Leaving Cert exam paper this November.

“The deadline of this Friday, 2 October 2020, is no longer realistic as students, upon receiving clarification on these errors, will need more time to consider their options.”

He said students and their parents should follow Department of Education guidance in full, once it is provided, while school principals, teachers and career guidance counsellors would remain available for support where needed.

Students have also voiced their frustration with the error.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Liveline, Institute of Education student Amy Craven said she believes she could be one of the students affected, as she received 443 points, however, her teachers awarded her 44 points higher than this.

“I wrote a letter to Norma Foley when I found out to get some sort of explanation to why this happened,” she said.

“We’ve no idea why we got downgraded, no one does. I’m now doing my sixth choice out of ten.

“I want my points back. I’m willing to reapply to the CAO next year.

“I don’t understand how they can come out and say this now, at the start they said no school was subject to bias. It’s a bit late to say it now.”

Alan Harte is repeat Leaving Cert student who decided to re-sit exams this year in order to obtain better grades to get into the Army Cadets.

The student attended school up to November of 2019, however, his mother had a mini-stroke so he had to study at home while looking after her. Due to being downgraded, he didn’t receive the grades to get into the Army Cadets, however, he said he is unaware if this is because of the grades his teachers gave him or by the Department of Education algorithm.

In order to get into the Army Cadets three H5’s and basic passes in English, Irish, Maths and a foreign language is needed but, unfortunately, Alan did not obtain this.

“Last year I got 308 points and this year I’m actually not aiming for points I’m aiming for grades for a cadetship with the army,” he said.

“Last year I got a H5 in Geography and this year I got a H8, which is no marks. I don’t know what to do now.”

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