Lawyers expect flurry of legal actions after release of teachers’ estimated grades

Leaving Cert students will have access to their school’s estimated marks from Monday

The Government is braced for potential legal actions given that the previous administration was warned by the then attorney general that the calculated grades process had ‘legal vulnerabilities’. Photograph: Getty Images

The Government is braced for potential legal actions given that the previous administration was warned by the then attorney general that the calculated grades process had ‘legal vulnerabilities’. Photograph: Getty Images

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Lawyers say the release of teachers’ estimated percentage marks for Leaving Cert students on Monday is likely to result in a flurry of legal actions from parents whose children “lost out” under the calculated grades process.

Around 60,000 Leaving Cert students will be entitled to access their school-issued grades online from 9am and appeal their results.

In more than 20 per cent of cases these grades will differ from students’ final results which they received last week.

The school-issued grades were adjusted under the Department of Education’s standardisation process, which moved grades up or down to provide for greater consistency across schools.

A total of 17 per cent of grades were adjusted downwards, while 4 per cent were adjusted upwards.

Brian Gill, head of employment law and commercial litigation at Callan Tansey Solicitors, said the disclosure of teachers’ estimated grades would be important in determining whether students have sufficient grounds for legal action.

Another legal source, who declined to be named, said they have been contacted by significant numbers of students, parents and schools who feel their grades were disproportionately lowered under the standardisation process.

In many cases students were from “high-achieving” schools – including private, non-fee paying and grind schools – where overall grades this year were significantly down on their historical achievement. This was despite overall grade inflation this year.

“Teachers’ estimated grades and their class ranking will be important in determining if students were unfairly treated in the calculated grades process relative to others,” the lawyer said. “That will be crucial in deciding if there are grounds for a judicial review.”

The Government is braced for potential legal actions given that the previous administration was warned by the then attorney general that the calculated grades process had “legal vulnerabilities”.

Students will not, however, have immediate access to their class ranking, which will show the position students were placed in order of achievement by their teachers.

The department’s plan had been to release this data on Monday alongside students’ estimated grades. However, it dropped this following lobbying by teachers’ unions who warned that this information was highly sensitive.

Sources have indicated that this information should be available at a later date following a formal data access or Freedom of Information request.

Entered accurately

The appeal process for students’ grades will be limited to checking if data was entered accurately. It will not involve reopening teachers’ decision-making processes which resulted in their estimated grades.

Teachers were advised to “securely destroy” any supporting documentation they generated in reaching a decision on a student’s grades.

This included drafts of forms, personal notes or emails in which teachers discussed a student’s estimated percentage mark or class ranking in a particular subject.

It is understood this was a condition made by teachers’ unions in signing up to agree to the calculated grades process, along with a full indemnity in the event of any legal action.

Schools were directed to retain only the final forms submitted to the Department of Education which record students’ final estimated marks and class rankings.