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'A long year': Leaving Cert students commended as calculated grades released

Students were able to access their grades since 9am this morning.

Minister for Education Norma Foley congratulating students Roisin Culligan, Fiona Isdell, Lauren Smyth, Eloise Keogh and Claire Geoghegan from Dominican College, Griffith Avenue, Dublin
Minister for Education Norma Foley congratulating students Roisin Culligan, Fiona Isdell, Lauren Smyth, Eloise Keogh and Claire Geoghegan from Dominican College, Griffith Avenue, Dublin
Image: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

Updated Sep 7th 2020, 10:06 PM

LEAVING CERT STUDENTS have been commended today as examination results were issued this morning.

The Department of Education revealed earlier today that average Leaving Cert marks across all subjects and at all levels are up by an average of 4.4%.

The decision to allow students the option of accepting calculated grades was announced in May after nearly three months of speculation amid uncertainty over the impact of the coronavirus on the State exams. 

Those results were finally issued to students today. Students’ unions and teaching associations have issued their congratulations to those who received results. 

In a down-to-the wire change in how the individual results would be decided, Education Minister Norma Foley confirmed last week that past academic performance of schools would not be used to ‘standardise’ student results. 

It followed controversy in the UK as the government was forced into a spectacular u-turn on the exam grading process. 

The results students in Ireland received this morning are based on teacher and school input along with other information as part of a process designed by experts from the State Examinations Commission and other agencies. 

Giving an overview of the results, the Department said they are higher than they would be in any normal year – but that the final results are lower than the ones which would have emerged if teacher estimates had been left unchanged.

Reaction

There has been a broadly positive reaction to today’s results. However, some students and educational professionals have expressed their frustrations with the outcomes of today. 

Speaking to RTE Radio One’s Liveline, a school principal in Co Kildare, Eddie Gaughran, claimed about 12 of the 68 students in his school who sat the Leaving Cert were unfairly downgraded. 

“I have a teacher of biology who rightly submitted five H1s, and I was the person who was to moderate those results, she rightly submitted five H1s to me, which without adjustment, which is my duty, I submitted to the DES, and this morning three of those are no longer H1s,” Gaughran said. 

“From a H1 to a H2 is 12 points. If that happened to you twice it’s 24 points. For people in that competitive, broad medical sphere, which we’ve all said so much about, heartwarmingly in the last six months, that loss of 24 points is huge,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union President Rueban Murray congratulated students who received their results today. 

“The Leaving Certificate is a stepping stone for students as they progress on to the next phase of their lives, but it does not define them or their abilities as a person,” Murray said. 

“It is an exciting time and we wish every student the best of luck in whatever career or direction they wish to take. It is important to remember to also be there for those who don’t get the results they want. Support each other in this,” he said. 

Murray highlighted that it has been a “long year with plenty of uncertainty and stress” for the students.

“The Leaving Certificate class of 2020 should be commended for their bravery and resilience in dealing with such as difficult situation,” he said. 

The director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), Clive Byrne, has also offered his congratulations to the students. 

“The Leaving Cert class of 2020 has had to forgo many of the school traditions that all preceding sixth years have experienced and remember fondly, such as their last days at school, school graduations, and even their Debs, all in respect of public health guidance,” Byrne said. 

“For those students who have been fortunate enough to match or exceed their expectations, today is a happy and very affirming conclusion to their second-level schooling and a launchpad to third-level education and other career opportunities,” he said. 

“For other students who may be feeling disappointed, I would encourage them to remain positive. Thankfully, there are more pathways than ever before into third-level education and their chosen careers beyond that.”

Announcing the results today, Minister Foley acknowledged students were receiving them at a difficult time, and that it had been a challenging six months for Leaving Cert students and their families. 

“This is a very different day from what we had anticipated for you, and from what you had planned and dreamed for yourselves,” Foley said in a statement. 

“I do appreciate what an especially difficult time you have had over the past six months, and I want to commend you for the patience, courage and resilience you have shown in that time.

“The creation of the calculated grades system came about to ensure there would be a mechanism to enable the class of 2020 to progress to work or further and higher education on completion of your second level school experience.”

While acknowledging it had been a challenging time for students she said she believed the system was “the fairest possible solution given the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves as we journey together through the Covid-19 pandemic”. 

Students were able to access their grades via the Calculated Grades Student Portal from 9am this morning.

Breakdown of subjects

In Irish, the number of students who achieved the highest grade in Level A (H1) increased from 6.1% of students last year to 9.1%.

In Irish Level B, the number of students who achieved the highest grade increased from 1.9% of students last year to 5.8% this year.

In Maths Level G, 4.4% of students received the highest grade, compared to 1.7% last year and 1.5% in 2018; just 1.8% received the lowest grade in the same subject this year, compared to 4.3% and 3.7% in the previous two years.

The proportion of students studying Level A Art increased by over 5 percentage points; from 3.0% in 2018 and 3.2% in 2019, to 8.5% of students this year.

In Latin Level A and Classical Studies Level A, the number of students receiving the highest grade possible doubled.

According to the Department:

  • While marks may have been adjusted, there has been no change of grade between the school estimate and final result in 79.2% of cases; 83.1% of all grades are either the same or higher than the school estimates while 16.9% of grades are lower
  • The average marks across all subjects and at all levels have increased on average by 4.4% on last year
  • Across all subjects at Higher Level the rate of grade 1s has risen by 3.3 percentage points; the rate of grade 2s has risen by 1.8 percentage points; and the rate of grade 3s by 3.2 percentage points
  • At Ordinary Level, where there was less prevalence of overestimation, the rate of grade 1s has risen by 1.7 percentage points; the rate of grade 2s has risen by 1.8 percentage points; and the rate of grade 3s by 0.3%.

It has not been possible to generate some 2,500 grades – 0.6 % of the total. The Department’s statement explained:

“This arises in the case of students studying an extra subject outside school or in the case of students studying for their Leaving Certificate independently of any formal educational involvement.

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“To be fair to all other students, an estimated mark could only be accepted from an appropriate source based on credible evidence. Unfortunately, not all students were able to comply with these requirements. These students have access to an appeals process and will be able to sit the later written examinations.” 

Appeals 

As in previous years, where a student is not happy with their grade, they can appeal the result – but this year’s appeals process will be much more restrictive than usual with little room for a grade to be changed. 

An appeal of a grade will essentially be an administrative appeal to ensure that the percentage given by the teacher was recorded correctly by the Department of Education, and also matches the grade indicated in the Student Portal. 

That appeals process will open on 14 September and close at 5pm on 16 September. 

If a student is still unhappy with their grade, they can opt to sit the exam in November in one or more subjects. They will then have two grades – the calculated grade and their exam grade – but the higher of the two will be the final result in that subject. 

Students who have opted to sit the exam in November will have access to the traditional appeals process when they receive their results early next year. 

CAO first-round offers are due to be announced at 2pm on Friday.

- with reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha and Hayley Halpin

About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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