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Review of Dublin Fire Brigade promotion exam found marking errors in 20% of papers

Last year a firefighter made a protected disclosure about the exams, claiming some candidates had been given the questions beforehand.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

AN INDEPENDENT REVIEW of written exams for promotions within Dublin Fire Brigade last year found errors in the marking of one fifth of the papers.

Earlier this year TheJournal.ie revealed a member of the fire service had made a protected disclosure in 2017 claiming a number of firefighters were given the questions from an exam paper in advance of the written test.

The details were alleged to have come through phonecalls and text messages. A total of 180 candidates applied for positions as sub-officers, which is the first rung on the promotion ladder in the fire service. 

A panel of 48 names was formed based on combined marks awarded during these examinations and interviews. 

Internal correspondence recently released to TheJournal.ie after a Freedom of Information request notes there were “a large number of requests from candidates” to review their papers after the results.

After the protected disclosure and the volume of staff members asking to see their exam papers and how they were marked, the fire service decided to commission an independent review. 

An internal briefing note on the results of the review said its role was to “conduct a formal recheck of all scripts” and to ensure that the mark awarded was correct. The review panel was not tasked with investigating the whistleblower’s claims that some candidates had been leaked details of questions beforehand.

According to the review, the average mark of the successful promotion candidates was 937 out of 1,000.

The independent panel discovered 29 errors, according to the briefing document.

Before the review began, errors were noticed in nine scripts because the individual candidates had asked for their papers to be reviewed. Another error on a paper was discovered by the human resources section which carried out a cross check of marks received.

“In total, 39 errors from 180 scripts have been identified, equating to 21.6% of the overall number.”

The outcome of the checking of each examination result will be communicated to the HR department. If any candidate’s mark is found to be incorrect the HR department will determine if this affects the overall result of the subofficer competition.

According to Dublin Fire Brigade correspondence, the revised marks did not materially affect the outcome of the competition and the original 48 candidates remain on the subofficer panel.

There were, however, some minor changes to the order of merit and all candidates on the panel were to be contacted to have their places confirmed.

Candidates who did not make it onto the panel, but whose results were revised were also to be contacted.

The review recommended that Dublin Fire Brigade establish an independent review of the overall selection process with input or advice from a body such as the State Examinations Commission and or a qualified expert in the area.

It said consideration could also be given to outsourcing the process to, for example, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.

Dublin Fire Brigade told TheJournal.ie that the recruitment process “is currently under consideration, and will have regard to the recommendations referred to”.

It said it does not anticipate any delays to the next round of promotion competitions that are due to take place in the fire service.

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