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Cabinet discusses more college places ahead of Friday's CAO offers


Minister Simon Harris

Minister Simon Harris

Minister Simon Harris

Hundreds more college places are up for discussion at today's Cabinet meeting amid intensive efforts to minimise disappointment when CAO offers are made on Friday.

As Leaving Cert students celebrate bumper results, universities and institutes of technology are working against the clock to see where they can take in more first years, over and above the 1,250 additional places announced last week.

Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris will update his Government colleagues on progress and numbers are expected to be finalised by tomorrow.

The high points generated by this year's inflated results will drive up competition for places, and there is concern to ensure that CAO applicants holding Leaving Certs from previous years are not squeezed out.

The results are, on average, 4.4pc higher than usual, and appear to have been generally well received, although there was disappointment too,

For the first time, Leaving Cert candidates got calculated grades rather than results from June exams, which were called off because of Covid-19.


The grades were derived from estimated marks and class rankings awarded by teachers, which went through a national standardisation process.

It ended with 83pc of grades students received at or above the school prediction, and 17pc below. There was anecdotal evidence of dismay and puzzlement in some schools and among some teachers at the marking down of the figures they submitted.

Students will know on Monday exactly what happened when they are given access to the school's estimated percentage marks as well as the percentage marks awarded by the calculated grades process, which gave rise to the grade.

There is provision for an appeal but it extends only to ensuring that data was recorded and transmitted correctly.

Principals signed off on the teachers' marks - at which point they became school marks - and were told to keep copies of forms sent to the Department, until after the appeals process.

Teachers were instructed to destroy any records involved in generating their estimated mark, so students will not know the basis for a teacher's mark.

On Monday, students will not have access to their class rankings, which is the subject of a dispute between the Department of Education and teacher unions.

The Department is taking legal advice and hopes to publish the information at a later date.

National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) Director Clive Byrne, said "every effort has been made to ensure no student has been disadvantaged".

He also highlighted the challenges ahead for the Leaving Cert class of 2021 and said "our incoming sixth years have had and will have equal if not greater challenges" than this year's school leavers.


He said March's school closures came at a time when many fifth-years were getting to grips with crucial course material that, in a normal year, they would move to revise and refine in sixth year.

Irish Second-Level Students Union (ISSU) President Reuban Murray said while "many may be disappointed with their results, there is still the chance for students to sit their exams".

The Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) said it would be liaising closely with its members and be gauging teachers' and students' reactions.

Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) President Martin Marjoram advised students who were disappointed with their grades "not to lose hope as, now more than ever, education is a lifelong pursuit and there have never been more routes open to pursue a chosen career".