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Teachers and Leaving Cert students 'can have no more discussions about grades'

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Education Minister Joe McHugh
Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Education Minister Joe McHugh Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Education Minister Joe McHugh Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Teachers and Leaving Cert candidates cannot have any further discussions about the student's performance in the past two years, nor can they talk about the estimated mark the teacher will award a pupil under new calculated grades system.

Updated advice from the Department of Education also confirms that no additional work can be accepted from the students after May 11, the official date for the end of tuition for the Leaving Cert class of 2020.

However, candidates remain students of the school and can continue to access wellbeing and other supports provided via the Student Support Team until the end of term.

The latest advice comes ahead of detailed guidelines for teachers about how to approach the unprecedented task of providing calculated grades for their pupils, as an alternative to the Leaving Cert exams.

In a new posting on its website, the department has defended the use of calculated grades as the "fairest way possible" to tackle the effects of a lack of schooling and other problems caused by Covid-19.

It also seeks to calm any student apprehension about the unprecedented process of awarding end-of-school grades.

"Students have had a very broken schooling experience - some have had access to schooling through online learning, others haven't," it states in a new FAQ on its website.

It says teachers will review several pieces of information about students' work over the past two years and will have to keep a record of the evidence they used to come to the estimated mark as well as the student's overall class ranking.

Once teachers have agreed a percentage mark and class ranking for each student, there will be a further review by the principal, following which the school will send its "results" to the Department of Education, which will conduct a national standardisation process.

That process will involve a series of checks and balances, taking on board two other pieces of data - the pattern of the school's performance in the Leaving Cert over the past three years, as well as the Junior Cert results of the current Leaving Cert class.

In its updated advice, the department seeks to reassure students that "the standardisation process does not favour any type of student or school".

"No matter how good you are and no matter what your school is like, if your school gives us an accurate estimate of your expected performance and gives accurate estimates for the rest of your class too, then you will all be treated fairly," it states.

It says the most important information about each student is the estimated marks and ranking that the school provides and the standardisation process serves to make sure the school has not been too harsh or too lenient.

"If you are a particularly strong candidate in your class - irrespective of the school you attend - then you will still emerge as a particularly strong candidate, and your calculated score will be as close to what you would have achieved in the examinations as it is possible to calculate," it states.

While some of the estimated marks may be adjusted up or down within the standardisation process, the department says that will depend "on the accuracy with which your teachers and school have made their estimates, not on the kind of school you are in".

"For example, we expect it to be quite common that the estimated marks in one subject from a school will need to be moved up and the marks in another subject from the same school will need to be moved down," it said.

The department added that all the assembled information "will be used to predict the level of achievement that you as a group would have been expected to reach in that subject if you had sat the Leaving Certificate examination in the normal way".

Irish Independent