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Explainer: What the Leaving Cert Calculated Grade errors mean for students

Around 6,500 students will now receive higher grades as a result.

Image: Shutterstock/panitanphoto

IT EMERGED EARLIER today that two errors were found in the code responsible for calculating the grades of this year’s Leaving Cert students.

The errors are estimated to have impacted the grades of approximately 6,500 students.

Education Minister Norma Foley said that those who received a higher grade “will not be affected in any way” and that those who were marked down “will have their proper grade restored”. 

What happened?

This afternoon, Taoiseach Michéal Martin told the Dáil that two errors were identified in the Calculated Grades system. Students received their grades on 7 September. 

At 4pm, Minister Norma Foley made a formal announcement and said she was informed of the first error last Wednesday. 

She said that 7,200 Leaving Cert grades have been affected by the two errors found in the same part of the coding used to implement the standardisation process. 

The first error was in one line of code programmed by private company Polymetrika. It affected the way in which student’s Junior Cycle grades were included in the calculation. 

It showed that instead of including Junior Cycle English, Irish, maths and the student’s two best subjects in the calculation, the three core subjects and the student’s two weakest subjects were instead counted. 

When the department examined this error, it spotted a second issue contained in the same section of code programmed by Polymetrika. 

This error showed that the Junior Cycle results for Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE), supposed to be discounted in the grading system, were instead included in the calculation. 

As a result, some students received a higher grade than they should have, while others received a lower grade.

Those who received a higher grade “will not be affected in any way” and those who were marked down “will have their proper grade restored”, Minister Foley said.  

The process is still ongoing so it is not fully know how many students will receive higher grades, however Foley said it is likely to be around 6,500. 

NO FEE MIN FOLEY GOV BUILDINGS JB2 File image of Education Minister Norma Foley.

What happens next?

The coding errors have been corrected and re-run through the model. 

ETS Educational Testing Service has been hired by the department to review relevant aspects of the coding. This is expected to take a number of days.

Once this is completed the department will contact all students to advise them that they will receive a higher grade or grades, or to inform them that they have not been impacted by the error.

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Will students receive new CAO offers if their points increase? 

The department will send a corrected file of student results to the CAO so it can work with higher education institutions to determine if a student is due a new offer. The department has said “everything possible” will be done to facilitate their admission.

Any student who would have been entitled to a different offer will receive this offer or a deferred offer as soon as practicable after the updating of results.

The department has said this is in line with the practice that occurs in the appeals process every year.

Minister Foley said it is hoped that, similar to the usual appeals process, the majority of new CAO offers can be taken up in this academic year, though some may have to be taken up next year.

“Last year there were 17,000 appeals, of which 6,000 upgrades were received. And of that 6,000 upgrades, 300 CAO higher preference offers were made,” she said.

And all of those higher preference offers were made within the academic year bar three. I would be hopeful and we will certainly do all in our power to ensure that, if at all possible, we could reach that level of achievement this year as well.

The department has put in place a dedicated helpline and email address to answer queries from students. The helpline number is 01 8892199 and the email address is LC2020@education.gov.ie . 

The helpline will be open today until 7pm today and tomorrow from 10am-5pm. 

When the results are published on the portal detailed information on this process will be available for students on gov.ie/LeavingCertificate.

About the author:

Michelle Hennessy and Orla Dwyer

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