Pupils find themselves in uncharted waters, writes Katherine Donnelly
Q. Is the Leaving Cert cancelled or postponed?
A. Effectively it's cancelled, and exams scheduled to start on July 29 are not happening. However, there will be a sitting at some point - November is the earliest date being mentioned - to accommodate students who really want to sit the written papers, including those who may not be happy with the predictive grades they are awarded.
Q. Would a November Leaving Cert allow me to use results from the exam for college entry next autumn?
A. If you decide to sit the exam, the results would come into play for college entry in 2021-22. However, if a student gets an improved CAO offer on foot of better grades in the exam, they will get a deferred college offer based on points for 2020-21 and will have it in the bag for 2021-22.
Q. Do I have to choose between calculated grades or the exam?
A. You can do both. Even if you are happy with the calculated grades in most subjects, but feel you could do better sitting the exam in one or more subjects, you can do that and combine the two sets of grades.
Q. I reckon I'll be happy with calculated grades. Am I finished with school?
A. In a word, yes. The work teachers and principals have to do now will be based on past performance, such as summer and Christmas exams and coursework and will also take account of how you rank against your peers.
Unlike at Junior Cert, where student assessment may continue up to the end of May, there will be no further assessment of Leaving Cert students. However, it might be a bit rash to bin the books just yet, as you may want to keep open the option of sitting the exam.
Q. Is there higher and ordinary levels in calculated grades?
A. Yes, and students are advised to stick with whatever they entered to do in exams.
Q. Will teachers be using my Junior Cycle results when they calculate my grades?
A. No. However, when all the schools - there are about 730 - submit data, the Department of Education will be able to take account of the school's Junior Cycle results as a way of checking there is no wild variation.
Q. How can I be certain the process will be fair? I get on better with some teaches and I think it shows in my grades. I also get a feeling I have been marked down in English, to get me to work harder.
A. Teachers are professionals and their code of practice is underpinned by the values of integrity, trust, care and respect. They can be expected to exercise professional judgments in coming up with a percentage mark.
Q. What is the principal's role?
A. The principal has to sign off on the grades and will review the work done by teachers to ensure fair treatment of students and that a uniformity of standards is applied. It will include ensuring different teachers of the same subject are applying similar standards.
Q. What about the 100pc we were all given for the oral and practical components. Does that stand?
A. No, That's gone for calculated grades. The matter is under review in relation to the rescheduled exams.
Q. Can I appeal my calculated grades?
A. Yes and no. There is an appeals process but grounds will be limited to ensuring schools entered correct data and it was correctly processed by the Department of Education. A student will not be able to challenge the grade awarded. A student still unhappy will have the chance to sit the rescheduled exams.
Q. I studied music outside school. Can that be included in my calculated grades?
A. Calculated grades can be awarded for an extra exam subject a student has taken up outside school if there is sufficient evidence to make a judgment.
Q. Is there a deadline for the submission of results by schools to the Department of Education?
A. Ideally, by the end of May and the department hopes to release grades as close as possible to the normal Leaving Cert results date, although it may be September.
Q. How will the Department of Education come up with the final grades for 61,000 students?
A. They call the process standardisation and it will involve algorithms to crunch the percentage marks and class ranking of individual students submitted by schools along with data held by the State Examinations Commission, such as Junior Cycle results. It will be sophisticated enough to take account of variations between schools.
A technical working group on this includes personnel from the Educational Research Centre and the State Examinations Commission, along with an expert on statistics.