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The Leaving Cert: When are the results due, and what can we expect?

Leaving Cert calculated grade results are due to be released tomorrow morning at 9am.

Image: Shutterstock/hxdbzxy

FOLLOWING THE CONTROVERSIAL roll out of predicted grades for the Leaving Cert class of 2020, some 60,000 students will tomorrow receive their results and by the end of the week will have received their CAO offers. 

The calculated grades model was introduced by Government over the summer after its initial plans, under the direction of then Education Minister Joe McHugh, to hold traditional Leaving Cert exams in July were shelved following criticism from politicians and stakeholders. 

The process involves using a student’s Junior Certificate grades along with the input of their teachers to predict what they may have received if they sat the traditional exam, and at 9 am tomorrow morning students will have access to their grades. 

This year’s grading system, however, has been mired in controversy over concerns that it was too similar to the standardisation process used in the UK equivalent which saw student grades downgraded based on that school’s exam performance in previous years. 

The Education Minister Norma Foley this week moved to pacify those concerns, confirming that no student would have their grades downgraded based on their school’s past performance. 

Foley did, however, confirm that 17% of students grades have been reduced and 4% have been increased based on a framework which involved reviewing the teacher’s grade allocation to each student.

The Government, education stakeholders including teachers, principals, and unions, and of course, students and parents, will be watching closely for the reaction to what is a very novel results day in an unprecedented year for the class of 2020. 

Results day

Tomorrow is results day for all who enrolled for the predicted grades system earlier this summer, while a small number will go on to sit the traditional exams which commence on 16 November. 

At 9am, students will have access to their grades via the Calculated Grades Student Portal, eliminating the traditional results day buzz where students would often have arrived at their school, gathered for assembly, and collected a brown envelope containing their results. 

The Government itself, in its guidelines, has acknowledged the impact of the loss of in-person celebrations at schools where students will have spent much of the previous five or six years. 

“The tradition of coming back to school to celebrate the results with teachers and classmates on the day that the results issue will not be the same as in previous years,” it said. 

“Schools have been advised to provide support to students in an appropriate way on the day, through enabling students to come to the school if they wish at a scheduled time.”

Those measures, if introduced in an appropriate manner, will allow students to attend the school at a scheduled time to discuss their grade with guidance counsellors, year heads, tutors, and chaplains. 

Students can, of course, print their results from the online portal in lieu of the hard copy they would have received in previous years but “this is the only way to receive a hard copy of your calculated grades as, while schools will be provided with details of your results electronically, formal Statements of Provisional Results will not be issued to schools this year”.

The Government has spent months trying to perfect the process but opposition politicians remain unconvinced by the new Leaving Certificate model which hasn’t been ruled out as a possible framework for 2021 Leaving Certificate cohort. 

TDs from Sinn Féin and the Labour Party have called for the details of the standardisation process being used to be fully published ahead of results day in the interest of transparency, a request the Department of Education has so far refused. 

“This year’s cohort has experienced a year like no other and our main priority, alongside achieving an equitable process, is to ensure that they are supported and treated as fairly as possible,” Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh O’Laoghaire said. 

“If the Minister wants to ensure students have confidence in the model, she should do that because there are still areas of concern, such as how the annual national standardisation will be applied and the weight attached to that.”

Grades and 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 with little room for a grade to be changed. 

Where students could in previous years appeal their grade, request to view their exam script and how it was graded – often in the company of their subject teacher – that will not be possible. 

The Department of Education has asked for any materials documenting how their grade was arrived at to be destroyed. 

It means an appeal of a grade will essentially be an administrative appeal to ensure that the grade recorded by the Department of Education matches that allocated by the school, 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, with results expected after February 2021, will have access to the traditional appeals process when they receive their results. 

CAO

But before the appeals process opens, students who applied for third-level places will receive their offers a week beforehand. 

Those CAO offers are due to be announced at 2pm on Friday. Students will have until the 16 September to accept round one offers with round two offers out from 23 September at 10am. 

Notification of college course offers will be sent via text or email depending on how a student opted to receive them. 

UCAS offers for students who wish to study in the UK will be issued this coming Friday shortly after students receive their calculated grades. 

The Government has also allocated additional funding to make more college places available in certain courses where high demand is expected. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme this week, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said that there was apprehension ahead of the Leaving Cert results.

He said that he was attempting to provide more college places to accommodate for what is expected to be greater demand; the grades awarded this year will be higher, and students don’t have the option to go travelling or to work for a year before starting college.

More places will be available in the health service, more teacher placements will be available and on courses for which there is significant high demand. 

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Concerns

It appears the Government has addressed concerns around standardisation and for the most part, the process of issuing results, issuing CAO offers, and giving students the best possible chance of further education, looks promising. 

But in spite of this, concerns remain that the new calculated grades will put thousands of students at a disadvantage this year. 

TD Gary Gannon of the Social Democrats said students who sat the Leaving Certificate in previous years and who are now competing for third-level places with students receiving calculated grades might be negatively affected. 

Gannon called for additional places to be made available to this cohort and said: “we must also recognise the impact of this year’s marking system on the thousands of students who are under the age of 23 and are applying to college using their Leaving Certificate points from previous years”.

“These students should not be disadvantaged as they compete for college places with those who will be receiving their Leaving Cert results,” he said. 

At the centre of any Leaving Certificate grades this year will be how students feel when they receive their results. They are, after all, the group that was thrown a curveball in relation to their education when the pandemic hit in February. 

But Irish Second-Level Students Union president, Reuban Murray summed up how much of the country is feeling about the class of 2020. 

“This year’s cohort has experienced a year like no other and our main priority, alongside achieving an equitable process, is to ensure that they are supported and treated as fairly as possible.” 

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