Leaving Cert: Guide being developed for grading subjects studied outside school

Attempts to influence grading process will be ‘regarded as canvassing’ says Department of Education

If a student is studying one or more subjects outside a recognised school, or repeating a subject outside school, the department will be “flexible in accepting estimate marks and rankings from other schools and colleges and will look at this issue on a case-by-case basis”. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

If a student is studying one or more subjects outside a recognised school, or repeating a subject outside school, the department will be “flexible in accepting estimate marks and rankings from other schools and colleges and will look at this issue on a case-by-case basis”. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Detailed guidance is being developed on how to calculate grades for Leaving Cert students taking extra subjects outside school, the Department of Education has said.

A department spokesman said in the case of grind schools, teachers would provide an estimated mark and ranking “in a way that is fair to all candidates” and the department would “seek to provide a calculated grade”.

“Where relevant information is not available to inform a calculated grade the student will have the opportunity to sit the written Leaving Certificate examination at the earliest safe and practical time,” he said.

Concerns around grade calculations have been raised since last Friday’s announcement that the Leaving Cert will not go ahead this summer as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Instead, students will have the option to receive grades calculated by their teachers based on their school work or can go on to sit written exams in late 2020 or early 2021, subject to public health advice.

Secondary teacher John Gavin says clarity is urgently needed around how students undertaking exams without formal teachers will be graded.

Mr Gavin, who also founded the revision website leavingcertirish.com, said he had received dozens of emails from concerned students, many of whom are studying Leaving Cert Irish to get into a teacher training course.

“These are people who have put their lives on hold, and their families’ lives, in order to take this exam,” he told The Irish Times. “There has to be some reasonable accommodation from colleges that will enable them to progress.

Grinds

Mr Gavin believes teacher training colleges should accept students based on entry interviews and come back to the question of the Irish Leaving Cert score at a later date. “Allow them to enter with the caveat that they must sit the Leaving Cert Irish exam when it runs and should they not receive the grade they will leave the course. My own guess is the vast majority of people will make the grade.”

He also expressed concern as to whether the department would accept grades calculated by retired teachers who are no longer registered with the teaching council but give grinds to students taking additional subjects outside school.

An uplift campaign set up over the weekend called on the minster for education to “ensure an equitable approach in the recognition” of students taking additional subjects outside school.

The department spokesman said “every effort” would be made to calculate grades for students studying subjects outside of school “provided there is sufficient evidence available to do this”.

He said “detailed guidance” was being developed for schools on how to proceed in the case of students taking subjects outside school. “This will assist teachers and school management authorities to ascertain whether there is sufficient evidence of the student’s achievement in the subject being taken externally to make an objective judgement,” he said.

Repeating

If a student is studying one or more subjects outside a recognised school, or repeating a subject outside school, the department will be “flexible in accepting estimate marks and rankings from other schools and colleges and will look at this issue on a case-by-case basis,” he added.

Detailed guidance for teachers and principals is being developed, he said, adding that any attempt by a parent or student to influence a teacher’s grading process would be “entirely inappropriate” and “regarded as canvassing”.

Professor Philip Nolan, president of Maynooth University and chair of modelling at the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), said the use of calculated grades would serve students well and that cancelling the Leaving Cert was the “right decision at the right time”.

“It’s going to be a very difficult year for everybody next year. Students will have the option at some point to sit a written examination, but they would be deferring entry to third level for another year. In the extraordinary circumstances, this is the best we can do.”

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne called for more transparency around whether schools would definitely reopen in September rather than “the faffing around that went on with the Leaving Cert”.

Mr Byrne accused the department of “secrecy” around Leaving Cert plans and said the “absolute aim” needed to be getting children back to school in September.

Minister for education Joe McHugh said on Sunday it was “too early to say” whether schools would fully reopen in September.

The department spokesman said the roadmap for easing Covid-19 restrictions indicated schools would re-open in September 2020 but that any decisions would be underpinned by advice from NPHET.

The “core objective” is to ensure that schools can “re-open and operate in a safe manner that is consistent with public health advice”, he said.