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Leaving Cert 2020: 17% of teacher-predicted grades reduced; 4% increased

The announcement was made at Government Buildings this afternoon.

Image: RollingNews.ie/JULIEN BEHAL PHOTOGRAPHY

EDUCATION MINISTER NORMA Foley has confirmed that the past academic performances of schools will not be used to ‘standardise’ this year’s Leaving Cert students’ results. 

Under the new model, 17% of teacher-predicted grades will be reduced, while 4% will be increased. 

Today, Cabinet approved the process by which Calculated Grades – the alternative for the Leaving Cert state exams this year – would be standardised.

The change agreed today removes the use of school-by-school historical data in the standardisation model. The Department of Education said today that the updated model places a greater emphasis on the estimated marks provided by teachers to students.

Gender and location was also not taken into account when standardising teacher grades.

The data used to ‘standardise’ the score given by schools is this year’s Leaving Cert students’ Junior Cert results, and the national average over the last number of years per subject, according to Education Minister Norma Foley.

The breakdown

Data provided by the department indicates 16.8% of grades will be reduced by one grade as a result of standardisation, with 13.6% of grades being reduced by one grade in DEIS schools, compared to 16.8% in non-DEIS schools. 
0.1% of all grades will be reduced by two or more grades, with the figure being 0.1% in DEIS schools and 0.1% in non-DEIS schools.

The DEIS programme was introduced to address educational disadvantage – schools included in the programme receive supports to prioritise the education of children from disadvantaged communities.

Almost 4% of grades will increase as a result of standardisation, with an increase of 5% in DEIS schools, compared to a 3.7% increase in non-DEIS schools.

In terms of grades across all levels (Higher, Ordinary Common and Foundation Levels), 79.3% of student grades remain unchanged as a result of standardisation. In DEIS schools 81.2% of grades are unchanged, while in non-DEIS schools the figure is 79.4%.

She said that the current system has ensured results are as close to comparability as the Department can make to 2019 and what “we hope” will be 2021.

When asked whether the unfairness of the Leaving Cert in its normal guide would be tackled by Foley during her tenure as Education Minister, Foley said that she acknowledged the “advantage and disadvantage in education”.

“There’s always improvements to be made and certainly I will be addressing that as we go on,” she said adding that the Leaving Cert kept students anonymous, so it was fair.

The new model

“The student, and not the system, is the priority,” Minister Foley said today.

The individual marks awarded by the school and the rank order awarded by the school becomes the kernel of the model. 

Minister Foley said she had considered the effects of the model and the importance of ensuring that students from disadvantaged backgrounds were not treated unfairly.

Up to 60 different models or iterations of the model were trialed in an attempt to receive a fair result, it was said at the briefing today. Nuances were adjusted to see how it would affect the system – removing school historical data was just one iteration of that.

She said the experience in other jurisdictions had been taken into account. 

In recent weeks the UK government abandoned the standardisation part of this years’ A-level results; this followed on from mass protests from students whose grades were marked down in the standardisation process.

Third-level: ‘An improvement’ to grades

Speaking at a press conference today, the minister said there will be an improvement in grades nationally this year, but said standardisation – which is always an element of the Leaving Certificate grading process – will help to prevent grade inflation. 

Aggregated across all subjects, the percentage of Grade 1s at Higher Level in teacher estimates more than doubled in many subjects this year and tripled in some subjects, compared to previous years. The department said such uncontrolled growth in scores is “not credible” in one school year and demonstrated the need for standardisation.

The provision of 1,250 additional places in certain high-demand courses, such as healthcare and teaching, in higher education institutions was also announced today.

“There’s always a change in points every single year – remember, it’s a supply-and-demand issue in many ways,” Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said.

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Minister Foley said the decisions today will provide additional reassurances to students that their unique situation has been understood.

“From my first day as Minister for Education, I have been determined that in this extraordinary year, the system in place to mark students’ achievements of their years in post-primary education would be the fairest possible system under these challenging safeguards,” she said. 

Results will be issued to students on 7 September with CAO offers on 11 September. 

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

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