CAO points set to rise under Leaving Cert calculated grades

Teachers awarded more than twice normal level of top grades to students this year

CAO points for many third-level courses are likely to rise due to higher grades being offered to Leaving Cert students this year under the Government’s new calculated grades process.

The Department of Education has confirmed that grades will be “stronger” this year compared to previous years, which will lead to some grade inflation.

The biggest impact of this will be on up to 20,000 students who have applied for college places this year on the basis of results they secured in previous years.

Department of Education officials have acknowledged that they faced a choice this year between adjusting grades to make them consistent from year to year versus being fair to this year’s Leaving Certs who faced “exceptional” circumstances.

Officials said the release of more than 1,250 higher education places in high-demand courses will enable more students get their first-choice course and take some of the heat out of the points race.

It has also emerged that teachers awarded more than twice the number of top H1 grades to students in many subjects than would have been expected in the normal Leaving Cert.

In some cases the proportion of H1 grades awarded was three times the normal rate.

“There is no evidence that the students of 2020 were expected to achieve such a jump in performance,” according to a department briefing note. “Such uncontrolled growth in scores is not credible in one school year.”

Grade adjustment

The final calculated grade results will be adjusted using a standardisation process to bring grades closer into line with normal achievement patterns.

Overall, a large majority (79 per cent) of students’ estimated grades will remain the same. The remainder will be either reduced (17 per cent) or increased (4 per cent).

About 60,000 Leaving Cert students are set to receive their final calculated grade results at 9am on Monday.

Minister for Education Norma Foley announced on Tuesday that teachers' estimated grades would be at the core of the results that students can expect.

At a press conference at Government Buildings, Ms Foley also said the Cabinet had agreed to drop a controversial measure know as “school profiling”.

This relates to a plan to use schools’ historical grade data to adjust results for this year’s Leaving Certs.

Ms Foley said she had taken this measure so that students from disadvantaged backgrounds were not treated unfairly.

“Your school will not determine the results that you get through standardisation this year,” she said.

A breakdown of the calculated grades shows the proportion of downgrades for students in disadvantaged or Deis schools is smaller (13.6 per cent) compared with other schools (16.8 per cent).

Overall, Government officials are hopeful key differences with the Irish approach to calculated grades will avoid the chaos and controversy seen in the UK.

The Irish Second Level Students’ Union said it was glad to see that “lessons had been learned” from the UK’s experience and that students, rather than the system, were at the heart of the process.