Students will notch up an average 60 CAO points more than in 2019
Education Minister Norma Foley has bought peace with students with a deal on an exams-only Leaving Cert giving extra choice on papers, fewer questions to answer, and a promise their results overall will be no lower than 2021.
It means this year’s Leaving Cert students will notch up an average of at least 60 CAO points more than they would have achieved had they sat the exam in 2019 before Covid hit.
But it falls short of the demand, from students in particular, for a hybrid option of exams and grades based on teachers’ estimated marks, as happened in 2021.
Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU) president Emer Neville said while they were “very disappointed, we acknowledge that the Department of Education has done what it can. They made it very clear that they looked at every option.”
The student leader also welcomed the clarity it provided to candidates that grades would be on a par with last year. She said the ISSU’s attention would now turn to ensuring the adjustments to exams were adequate.
The Cabinet approved Ms Foley’s recommendations yesterday and the minister also held a meeting of the advisory group on State examinations to advise of the changes.
The group includes representatives of students, parents, teacher unions, school management bodies principals and the State Examinations Commission (SEC).
The final decision on exams only came after almost three weeks of deliberations, when pressure mounted for a hybrid model because of the disruption caused by the pandemic, and stress experienced by students.
Much consideration was given to running some form of accredited grades, but the lack of Junior Cycle data for 25pc of this year’s Leaving Cert candidates made it impossible to do that in an equitable way.
Junior Cycle data was used in the calculated grades/accredited grades processes of 2020 and 2021, as a benchmark against likely performance in the Leaving Cert by the same cohort of students.
But one in four of this year’s Leaving Cert class have no Junior Cert results because the exam was cancelled in 2020.
While opposition parties have criticised the decision not to provide a hybrid model, second-level principals welcomed the changes as helpful in reducing stress on students.
The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) had been among those who had sought a non-exam option to ease the pressure on the class of 2022.
But NAPD director Paul Crone thanked Ms Foley and her officials for their engagement and collaboration with education stakeholders in the pursuit of finding an “optimal solution” for exam-year students.
He said they accepted that any decision surrounding the framework for Leaving Cert assessments must preserve the integrity of the grading system and prevent any potential inflation of grades.
The Joint Managerial Body (JMB), which represents about half of second-level school managers, described it as “balanced and proportionate and fair, and that it represents the best option for us at this time. Crucially, it ensures that the results for this year’s Leaving Certificate class group will match those of last year’s, which has been a major concern.”
Teacher unions, who supported an exams-only Leaving Cert, also welcomed the decision.
TUI general secretary Michael Gillespie said it provided the basis for fair and equitable outcomes for all students.
He said speculation of recent weeks was both regrettable and avoidable, and it had been reported to the union that it had negatively affected student engagement with important Leaving Certificate tasks and decisions.
ASTI president Eamon Dennehy said a critically important element was the measures to ensure that aggregate Leaving Cert results in 2022 were no lower than last year.
“This will provide students with a level playing field,” he said.