Sunday 18 February 2018

Teachers alarmed at lack of notice of grade reform in Leaving Cert

Institute of Guidance Counsellor (IGC) president Betty McLaughlin. Pic Steve Humphreys
Institute of Guidance Counsellor (IGC) president Betty McLaughlin. Pic Steve Humphreys
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Guidance counsellors have expressed concern about changes to entry requirements for college courses that leave incoming sixth years facing the challenge of achieving higher grades in some subjects.

As revealed in the Irish Independent, CAO applicants in 2017 face some significant hikes in the grades they will need for certain degree courses. In other cases, the minimum requirement may drop or stay the same.

Colleges have not released details, but one definite is an increase, from a minimum 55pc to 60pc, in the mark that applicants for college engineering courses will need in higher-level maths.

Changes in some entry requirements are coming about as a consequence of the new Leaving Certificate grading/CAO point scale being introduced next year.

Institute of Guidance Counsellor (IGC) president Betty McLaughlin said higher requirements, where introduced, would put "extra pressure" on the class of 2017.

She said the purpose of the introduction of a new grading system was to take the heat out of the points system, and this was widely welcomed.

"However, by increasing the minimum grade requirements into some courses, college authorities are defeating the original well-intended purpose of the changes," she said.

Ms McLaughlin said guidance counsellors were concerned that the changes were only slowly emerging while next year's Leaving Cert candidates were "halfway through senior cycle,"

She said students entering sixth year were only now "being informed that higher performance results in some subjects will be expected of them" next June.

The IGC president said that it also had implications for students who were considering repeating, as they may have to achieve a higher standard in particular subjects.

Other students who are not repeating, but who may depend on Leaving Cert results from 2016, or previous years, to apply to the CAO next year will have also have to match the new entry requirements.

While the college entry process tends to focus on CAO points, applicants first need to meet minimum entry requirements. High points count for nothing if a student does not have the minimum grade required by the college in a certain subject or subjects.

Under the new system, grades for Leaving Cert papers will run from H1 (90-100pc) to H7 (30-39pc) at higher level and O1-07 at ordinary level.

The wider grade bands, covering a 10pc stretch of marks, replace the ABC system where there was a 5pc step up between bands, such as 55-59pc and 60-64pc.

It has forced colleges to review entry requirements where the existing minimum grade is based on a mark ending in five, such as 55.

Individual colleges are working through their own changes and, in some cases, are raising standards with the minimum mark required going up to the next number ending in zero, such as from 55pc to 60pc,

Irish Independent

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