‘I’ve put hours upon hours into my studies, I am gutted with the grades’

Leaving Certificate student calls for comprehensive appeals system

Aisling Sun: ‘My parents moved their lives here 20 years ago from China to seek a better life.’

Aisling Sun: ‘My parents moved their lives here 20 years ago from China to seek a better life.’

 

A student from Jobstown, Dublin, who went to the Institute of Education on Leeson Street for the final two years of her studies, has called for a more comprehensive appeals system for those unhappy with their calculated Leaving Certificate grades.

Aisling Sun (18), got 488 points in the Leaving Certificate, but had been hoping for more than 520.

On Monday, she found out that her teachers had awarded her 533 points, before this total had then been reduced for her final, calculated grade. She is taking up a course in UCD that was her seventh CAO choice.

She said the friends she made in the €7,500-a-year Institute came from all social classes and all parts of Dublin.

Claims that the model used by the Department of Education to calculate Leaving Certificate grades led to unfair outcomes for students who went to schools that traditionally produce higher-scoring students, are likely to feature in High Court challenges expected as early as this week.

It is expected it will be argued that the model used by the department led to the grades awarded by teachers in schools with a tradition of high grades, being reduced to a greater extent than for the student body generally.

The range of students at the institute “was insane” said Ms Sun, who described her family as “middle to lower class”.

Well-off

“ I had friends who were extremely well-off, but also friends who were similar to my situation and were not as financially comfortable as others might be,” she told The Irish Times. “It’s not as uniform as people might think.”

She had been a student from primary up to transition year in secondary in her local school, “but I kind of lost the motivational atmosphere, after being there so long. Maybe I just needed a change of environment”.

She looked into studying at the institute and then asked her mother if she could go there. “She said of course, if this is what you want.”

“My parents worked very hard, and long hours, to make sure that we are able to get that extra help in our education. I am extremely grateful for them, for giving me my wish.” She has one, older sibling.

As matters stand, students can appeal their results, but the process is concerned with finding errors in the “transmission and processing of student data” as opposed to the decision on grades that was eventually made.

Ms Sun said she would like to see the appeal system broadened, so it could take other issues into account.

In an email she sent to a number of councillors at the weekend, she said she was asking them “if at all possible to communicate with the [department] on behalf of myself and many other let down students of this year’s Leaving Cert, for a robust appeals system. Or at least more leniency with the current one.”

She said she made the conscious decision to move from St Paul’s Secondary School in Greenhills, to the institute, in the hope of better learning opportunities and better results.

“I’ve spent the majority of my time in the institute taking classes from 8.30am to 4.30pm and then proceeding to go to evening study until 9pm, even weekend study in the school.

Gutted

“I’ve put hours upon hours into my studies in this school and I am gutted with the grades which were given to me.”

She said she knew the financial pressure going to the Institute would put on her parents.

“We are a middle to lower class family. My parents moved their lives here 20 years ago from China to seek a better life, and always told me they would provide me with anything I needed to ensure I could have the future I wanted for myself.”

“They’re so incredibly hardworking and I feel overwhelming sadness that I could not succeed for them.”

She said the 488 points that she had been awarded “does not represent me truly” and that she felt helpless and “stuck”.

She told The Irish Times that when she saw the results on Monday that her teachers had assigned to her, “it put my heart at peace. It let me know that my teachers did believe in me”.

The past week or fortnight had been very tense and pressurised, she said. “Honestly, it’s been quite a roller coaster.”