The late release of Leaving Cert results is out of kilter with the rest of Europe and is putting young people at a serious disadvantage, according to student and university representatives.
This year’s grades issued about three weeks later than normal, resulting in a last-minute scramble for accommodation. Inflated grades also mean that relatively high number of college places will be awarded this year on the basis of random selection.
The Irish Universities Association (IUA), along with the Technological Higher Education Association (Thea) and the Union of Students Ireland (USI) have urged Minister Foley to speed up the Leaving Cert reform process over a three-year time frame in order to address challenges faced by students in recent years.
As part of the reform process, the group has proposes that the date of Leaving Cert results should be brought forward.
A sample analysis of other European countries shows that Leaving Cert results are significantly later than elsewhere.
For example, the release date for the end-of-school grades in other countries typically takes places in May or June (Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain), early July (France, Poland) or early to mid-August (UK).
While Leaving Cert results in Ireland were traditionally issued in mid-August, they have been released in September for the past three years.
Education authorities say the delay has been linked to Covid and changes in assessment practices, as well as a shortage of examiners.
University and students representatives, however, say the delay is putting unnecessary pressure on students who are applying for college entry or making other life and career choices.
Jim Miley, director general of the IUA said: “Our analysis of the results timeline shows that Ireland is out of step with most of the rest of Europe. In an increasingly mobile international student market, this puts Irish students at a serious disadvantage. We urge the Minister to expedite the reform process in the interest of students.”
Beth O’Reilly, president of USI, said the long summer wait for results, and short turnaround to the new academic year, creates more stress on students and their families.
“The timing of the Leaving Cert. results is yet another barrier to students being able to attend higher education,” she said. “Securing accommodation is the biggest difficulty facing students this year, but first years will be in an even harder situation than most, with so little time to try and secure a place to live. A longer lead in time to the academic year would give students more security and time to plan and budget for the year ahead.”
Dr Joseph Ryan, chief executive of Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) said the interventions in the Leaving Cert system following Covid had unintended, but predictable, consequences.
“We should learn from this trigger, and accelerate the process of reform that restores consistency and equity while also lessening the pressure upon students,” he said.
Minister for Education Norma Foley announced details of planned reforms to the Leaving Cert earlier this year.
The most immediate change is that students entering senior cycle in September 2023 are due to sit paper one in English and Irish at the end of fifth year, a move which has sparked controversy among teachers’ groups.
In addition, a number of pilot schools will road-test two new subjects for students starting fifth year in 2024: drama, film and theatre studies; and climate action and sustainable development.
However, the bulk of more far-reaching changes will only begin to roll-out from around 2028 onwards.
Under these changes, 60 per cent of marks for all Leaving Cert subjects will be based on written exams and 40 per cent on additional assessment components such as project work, orals or practicals.