Sunday 22 April 2018

Quinn orders points system overhaul plan from colleges

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

PROPOSALS to overhaul the CAO points system are expected within weeks after Education Minister Ruairi Quinn told universities to speed up the change.

The minister has expressed dismay to university heads at how long it has taken for them to produce a plan that would take the heat out of the points race.

Mr Quinn was hoping to announce any changes by the start of the next school year, which would allow a new system to be in place for the Leaving Cert class of 2014. It is now not clear whether there is enough time for that to happen.

Reform would not mean the abolition of the current system, but a broadening out to include more flexible entry mechanisms so that students would not be relying on points in the traditional way.

There could also be a return to more broad-based courses for first years, and a move away from more specialist course titles that offer only a handful of places and drive points up.

The system is being criticised for putting too much pressure on students and encouraging rote learning. On the other hand it is praised for being transparent and fair, leading to a reluctance to tinker with it.

Earlier this week, Mr Quinn met the presidents of the seven universities and the heads of their governing authorities and expressed his impatience at the absence of any proposals for change.

He said: "For the past few months I have been told regularly that a report from the university sector on what changes are planned is imminent. There is still no sign of it and I have to express my disappointment at the delay by the university sector in coming forward with concrete plans for change."

He referred to the conference, organised jointly by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and the Higher Education Authority (HEA), last September, which had raised expectations.

"But the question being increasingly asked is 'what has happened since?'," he said.

Irish Universities Association (IUA) chief executive Ned Costello said they would be submitting proposals by the end of July.

Mr Quinn also took the opportunity to tick off the university heads over the €8m overpayment in unauthorised allowances to senior staff highlighted in a recent report from the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), which he is now seeking to recoup.

He said they needed to demonstrate that they were maximising productivity through the full use of resources available.

"You must also be aware that there is an issue with public perception in this area. Last week's report from the C&AG and the reaction to it show the challenges you face in convincing a sceptical public that their hard-earned taxes are being used to best effect".

Irish Independent

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