Hundreds of State exam students awarded ‘estimated grades’

One Leaving Cert student given estimated grade after complaining of ants on desk

Records indicate that last year a total of 148 students were awarded   estimated grades. Photograph:  Bryan O’Brien

Records indicate that last year a total of 148 students were awarded estimated grades. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Hundreds of Junior and Leaving Cert students have been awarded grades based on estimates by their schools due to errors such as scripts being lost or candidates being given the wrong exam papers.

A detailed breakdown of these awards show that in one case a student was given an estimated grade after complaining of being distracted by ants on their desk while sitting a Leaving Cert exam. In other cases, students complained of noise outside exam centres, a stopped clock in exam halls or being distracted by other candidates.

The State Examinations Commission’s (SEC) practice of awarding these estimated grades has not been publicly acknowledged and does not appear to be referred to in published documents.

However, the existence of this parallel Leaving Cert certification process based on estimated grades may raise fresh concerns over the transparency of the system and whether these grades are being awarded fairly.

SEC records indicate that last year a total of 148 students were awarded these estimated grades. The equivalent figures for 2018 was 116 students; 116 in 2017; and 159 in 2016.

‘No concerns’

In a statement, the SEC said it has “no concerns” in relation to the practice which was aimed at ensuring candidates are not disadvantaged by circumstances outside of their control.

“In its dealings with schools and candidates on such matters, the SEC is completely open about the process and the circumstances in which it has arisen.”

The process of awarding these grades involves requesting an estimate from the student’s school on the likely result the student would have received.

The treatment of these students contrasts with that of bereaved students who, until last year, had to sit Leaving Cert exams within hours of the funeral of a close family member or re-sit their exams a year later. These students can now sit exams they missed a month later.

Internal SEC records show it considered providing estimated grades – or “assessed results” – for bereaved students, but ruled it out over fears it could undermine confidence in the Leaving Cert.

“The commission would be very concerned that . . . the assessed result proposition would see the creation of a parallel Leaving Certificate certification process in which results are generated through other means,” the record states.

“Such a scheme would require significant buy-in from all stakeholders and be subject to significant challenge, both legal and in terms of maintaining public confidence in the Leaving Certificate examination system.”