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Explainer: What options do Leaving Cert students have now after the coding error debacle?

At least 6,500 students are believed to be impacted.

Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

TWO ERRORS IN the calculated grades system for the Leaving Certificate resulted in 6,500 students receiving lower marks than they should have, the government confirmed this week.

The first error was in one line of code programmed by private company Polymetrika. It affected the way in which students’ 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.

What if I’m impacted by the error and received a lower grade than I should have?

Every student will receive a text message to let them know if they are impacted by the error.

Those who were marked down will have their proper grade restored, the Minister for Education Norma Foley has said. 

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.

An estimated 1,000 additional college places may be required to deal with the error.

The minister has said work will be done to ensure “a maximum number of places” will be available to these students, but she acknowledged some may have to wait until next year to take up the course. 

Students who receive an offer after their grades are restored will also have the option to defer their college course for a year, if they want to.

What if I’m affected by the error and received a higher grade than I should have?

Education Minister Norma Foley has said that those who received a higher grade “will not be affected in any way”. 

These students will not be downgraded and will not have their CAO offers revoked, even if their true marks were not high enough for that course. 

What if I missed out on a college place to someone who got a higher grade than they should have due to the error?

Solidarity TD Mick Barry asked the minister about this on Thursday.

“There must be students who applied for courses and would have got their courses if that error had not been made, but were squeezed out of getting their courses because of that error,” he said.

The minister has acknowledged that some students may have got places in colleges that they otherwise wouldn’t have if the system had not had these errors. 

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However she has not committed to identifying students who were “squeezed out” as a consequence or to creating additional college places for them.

I want to appeal my grades – can I still do that?

The appeals process closed to applications on 16 September and no late applications will be accepted. 

This appeals process is technical and focused on errors in the transmission and processing of the individual student’s data through the process.

It does not investigate the operation of the overall system and does not relate to the recently identified errors.

I want to sit the formal exam – can I do that?

There is still an option for students who were due to sit their exams in June 2020 to do them in November. 

Minister Foley on Thursday said the deadline for registration to sit this year’s exams has been extended to 5pm on Wednesday, 7 October.

Students can sit the exams in one or more subjects.

Anyone who was due to sit their exams in June 2020 and who wants to sit the exams in November can register here.

After students receive their results from the formal written exams, whichever grade is higher – the exam result or the calculated grade result – will appear on their certificate.

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