Monday 16 September 2019

Number of Leaving Cert candidates appealing grade doubles

(stock photo)
(stock photo)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The number of Leaving Cert candidates appealing their exam grades has almost doubled this year.

A record 9,049 students – one in six of those who sat the exams – have sought a recheck on one or more papers, up 74pc from 5,197 in 2018. 

In all, candidates have appealed the results of 17,037 papers – which is almost double the 9,087 last year. That means that 4.3pc of all grades awarded in the 2019 exam are being appealed.

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) was caught by surprise by the level of demand, but insists it can keep to its original mid-September timeline for releasing appeal outcomes.

There was a particular focus on the appeals process this year in the wake of last autumn’s High Court ruling ordering that it be speeded up.

The ruling arose in the case of Rebecca Carter, who faced having to delay her veterinary degree for a year because UCD was closing registration on September 30, before appeal outcomes were due. It led to a more compressed schedule for results offers and appeals.

The SEC suggests a number of reasons for the big rise in appeals, but with the growing difficulty it faces recruiting examiners, questions may also be raised about consistency in marking.

The biggest increase in appeal applications is in higher level music, up 192pc, from 164 in 2018 to 479.

It is closely followed by design and communication graphics (higher), up 187pc, from 105 to 301; Irish (higher), up 167pc, from 723 to 1,933; engineering (higher), up 165pc from 40 to 106; Spanish (higher), up 159pc, from 175 to 454; Irish (ordinary), up 155pc from 44 to 112; and biology (higher), up 151pc from 835 to 2,092.

While the scale of the increase in subjects including English (higher) and maths (higher) is lower, the numbers involved are significant, with English up 35pc, to 1,925 and maths up 69pc to 1,411.

Rechecks have also been sought in a number of subjects in which there were no appeals last year: biology and Spanish (ordinary level), Italian, Japanese, Polish and physics and chemistry (higher level) and maths (foundation level).

The SEC last night pointed to the "very significant changes to its approach to the management and delivery of the appeals in order to deliver the results three weeks earlier this year".

It noted that while the level of growth in appeals was greater than anticipated, it had "further adapted its plans in response to the increased numbers of appeals and can provide reassurance that the planned issue date of the week beginning September 16 will be achieved".

The SEC re-engineered the entire appeals process to achieve the new deadlines.

As well as bringing forward the release of results by a day, it also set up a candidate self service portal to support faster and more efficient services to candidates and faster communications between candidates, the SEC and schools in relation to viewing scripts and the appeals.

It attributes the big jump in applications to a number of factors, including heightened awareness of the appeals process arising from its activity in alerting candidates to the changed timelines.

Also, for the first time this year, candidates had information about how they fared in individual elements of an exam where it had multiple components.

This applied, for example, to an oral or practical as well as a written paper, providing much greater transparency about where marks were won or lost.

In another new development, in the six subjects which were marked online for the first time this year, candidates were able to view digital images of their scripts via the candidate self service portal, and did not have to present at their school for a viewing before deciding whether they had grounds for an appeal.

The SEC also believes the earlier issue of the appeals results may have had an impact on the surge in demand for rechecks.

"All of these factors go some way to explaining the increase in the number of appeals," the SEC said.

Most examiners are experienced and serving teachers, a large number of whom are re-appointed each year, but, on occasion, it has recruited non-teachers with a third-level qualification in a relevant subject to fill outstanding vacancies.

Irish Independent

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