Grind schools call for greater transparency around algorithm

Entire system used to calculate Leaving Cert grades ‘seriously flawed’, say school directors

The Government should publish the algorithm used to calculate Leaving Cert grades and clarify how Junior Cert results were used in the standardisation process, the directors of two of the State’s grind schools have said.

Peter Kearns, director of Dublin's Institute of Education, and Patricia McGrath, principal of Hewitt College in Cork, have called for greater transparency around the coding used to calculate grades, saying the process employed by the Government was "seriously flawed".

The call for further information on the grading system comes after 6,100 Leaving Cert students across 610 schools were awarded improved Leaving Cert marks following a review of the calculated grades system which was found to contain errors.

Ms McGrath said on Sunday evening she had not yet come across any student who benefitted from the grade increases and warned that “every student in every type of school” had been impacted by flaws in the grading system.


“Initially it seemed private schools like ourselves were the most impacted but the whole system is flawed,” Ms McGrath said. Until the “set of rules behind the algorithm” were made fully public, it was impossible for principals and teachers to comprehensively question the grades their students received, she added.

She also expressed concern that students who did not study Irish at Junior Cert level may have been unnecessarily penalised by the coding system and said the aggregation of Irish, English and Maths as the subjects for grade calculation was also problematic.

Independent review

Institute director Peter Kearns said a “completely independent review of the entire grading process” was urgently needed to restore people’s confidence in the Irish education system. He also called for clarity around how grades were processed when students had sat their Junior Certificate in a different school or not at all.

Students who will be sitting the Leaving Cert in 2021 need clarity on how their exams will progress, according to Ms McGrath. “They need to know now whether they’ll be sitting an exam online or in the classroom so they’re not faced with a similar stressful situation in a time of uncertainty.”

Minister for Education Norma Foley said on Saturday that 5,408 students would see the grade of one of the Leaving Cert subjects increase, 621 students would receive a higher grade in two subjects and 71 students would receive a higher grade in three or more subjects.

Saoirse Corbett Fitzpatrick, who studied at the Dublin Institute of Education but did not score enough points for her dream college course of medicine, was hopeful for an upgrade on Saturday. However, she was not one of the 6,100 who saw their points go up. “I know no one from my school who received an upgrade,” she said on Sunday. “It’s disappointing and frustrating. The Government is still saying the system was fair but it clearly wasn’t, it’s disadvantaged so many students. It feels like the Government is just ignoring us. Most of my friends got severely downgraded in September and only got their fifth or sixth CAO choice.”

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast