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Leaving Cert grades error means around 6,100 students will now be given higher marks following review

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Minister for Education Norma Foley who updated leaving certificate 2020 students on matters relating to the calculated grades process.
Pic:Mark Condren

Minister for Education Norma Foley who updated leaving certificate 2020 students on matters relating to the calculated grades process. Pic:Mark Condren

Minister for Education Norma Foley who updated leaving certificate 2020 students on matters relating to the calculated grades process. Pic:Mark Condren

THE number of students impacted by the Leaving Cert calculated grade errors has been revised down to 6,100 following an external review.

Opposition TDs have been told that a review of the calculated grades system carried out by US company, Educational Testing Services, has discovered that fewer students are impacted than was disclosed on Wednesday when it was said to be approximately 6,500.

The 6,100 students will now be given higher marks following the review of the system. For 5,408 of these students the improvement in their grades will be for one subject; 621 students will get improved grades in two subjects; and 71 students will get improved grades in three or more subjects. The number of overall grades affected has also been revised down from approximately 7,200 to 6,870.

No student will have their overall marks downgraded as a result of the changes, officials told the Opposition during the Webex video briefing on Saturday evening.

Students will receive a text message on Saturday asking them to logon to the student portal from 6pm to discover whether they are among the cohort of those affected.

The Department of Education has sent the file of revised marks to the CAO which will provide an update to the public on Monday.

It is expected to take about a week for the CAO and the Department of Education to work through the implications of the changes on the number of extra college and university courses needed for affected students.

A third error was discovered in the code used to calculate Leaving Cert results when the process was forensically examined by an independent expert.

Educational Testing Services (ETS), an American specialist in the area, found students who had not sat all three core subjects of Irish, English and maths in the junior cert were given incorrect results in their leaving cert this year.

The experts also found a fourth issue in the code used to calculate the standardised leaving cert results. This fourth issue impacted students who received 99pc or more, and 1pc or less, in an exam but had no affect on any student’s overall results.

Education Minister Norma Foley and officials insisted this did not amount to a fourth error by Polymetrika International, a Canadian firm hired by the department to calculate standardised grades after the Leaving Cert exams were cancelled.

Students will now receive a text notifying them of the changes and they will be prompted to check their results on their student portal.

It is hoped the number of CAO changes needed to address the reviewed grades will be known by Monday. Foley said it would then take about a week before new offers could be made to students.

In its report to the Department ETS said it uncovered two new “issues”.

“Data for students missing junior level results for one of maths, English or Irish was incorrectly replaced with highest test score on any other subject test. This issue has been corrected,” it said.

ETS said it was satisfied the standardised process is now works as initially envisaged.

Foley apologised to students and said anyone who received an inflated grade because of the errors will retain the mark.

“That has always been the practice in the past and it remains the practice now.

“Was it ideal that we should be using the calculated grades process? Was it what everybody wanted? No but we are not living in an ideal situation. We are living in a situation where we are moving through our journey with Covid-19 and it was an extraordinary measure at an extraordinary time to find a pathway forward for students.”

There is no definite figure yet for the number of students who received an inflated grade.

On the prospect of legal challenges to the results, the minister and her officials were unable to confirm if Polymetrika or the department had been indemnified against action taken through the courts.

When asked about this, Foley said: “Anything is a possibility.”

She said higher preference offers would be made through the CAO system where possible.

Department of Education chief inspector Harold Hislop said there was no correspondence he was aware of in relation to legal actions that were “specific to Polymetrika”.


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