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Dublin: 12 °C Saturday 30 May, 2020

Case where Leaving Cert student lost out on college place 'cannot be repeated', judge says

Rebecca Carter received an official offer of her college place last week.

Rebecca Carter Rebecca Carter Source: Paddy Cummins/

A HIGH COURT Judge has said that the situation students like Rebecca Carter, whose Leaving Cert Exam points were wrongly totted up, find themselves in “cannot be repeated”.

Mr Justice Richard Humphreys said that the current system where Leaving Cert exams are reviewed by the State Examination Commission (SEC) is “highly unfair” and has caused “untold stress” to Rebecca, who earlier this week started her chosen course in veterinary medicine at UCD, and others who go through the appeal system.

The Judge said in order to avoid a repeat of similar problems in the future “an intensified process of coordination, in which central government could place a facilitative role might assist .”

The Judge added that people should not think that Rebecca’s case had an entirely “Hollywood ending”. She had lost the initial crucial first few weeks of her course.

She had missed out not just because of a mistake in the SEC’s process, but because the error correction fails to restore Ms Carter’s entitlement to take up a place in time for the start of the course.

A system that does not allow applicants to take up their courses until one and a half months after the start of the academic year is, “manifestly not fit for purpose,” the Judge said.

The Judge added that in fairness to the SEC, not all the problems caused by the time tight frames and lack of coordination by various independent agencies in the education sphere are entirely the fault of any one actor.

The Judge’s remarks were contained in his full written judgment in a case brought by Ms Carter (18) of Ardcolm Drive, Rectory Hall, Castlebridge, Wexford, had sued the SEC challenging its decision not to re-check her points score in time to allow her to obtain a place in Veterinary Medicine.

Late last month Mr Justice Humphreys ruled that the Commission, which opposed the application, must rectify an error in the totting up of Rebecca’s Leaving Certificate marks before UCD closed its admissions for 2018.

The Judge said that had her points been correctly added up she would have achieved an extremely high mark that would easily have qualified her for a place at the UCD course.

‘Severe stress’

Rebecca, represented by Micheal P O’Higgins SC and Brendan Hennessy instructed by solicitor Eileen McCabe, had repeated her leaving certificate exams and had received 554 points, just six short of the required number for veterinary medicine at UCD.

The points required for the course had dropped to 555 in the second round offer which had left her only a point short.

Rebecca was not satisfied that the result in her business exam fairly reflected her exam performance and took part in a review.

It had been discovered that her points total had been wrongly totted up and had the error not have occurred she would have surpassed the level required for the veterinary course.

After her marks were reviewed, Rebecca’s business studies grade was increased from a H2 to a H1 grade, and she was offered a place in what was her first choice.

The Judge also awarded Ms Carter the costs of the action.

The Judge said in his written judgement that it was nice to hear that the SEC was anxious to be seen publically to wish Rebecca well, particularly as it has defended the action on the basis that it argued her proceedings were self-serving.

The SEC the judge added had also raised the issue of possible costs consequences of taking her action. “Presumably, in making its latest intervention the SEC had in mind Rebecca’s averments as to the severe stress this matter had caused her,” the Judge added.

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Aodhan O Faolain

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