Leaving Cert: Independent appeal available for students disappointed with grades

School marks released by Department of Education of which 20 per cent were changed

 Ali Ali, Zaid Alshareefy, Robert Hernon and Mousa Alfaleh, joined Leaving cert students protest outside the Department of Education in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Ali Ali, Zaid Alshareefy, Robert Hernon and Mousa Alfaleh, joined Leaving cert students protest outside the Department of Education in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

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Leaving Cert students disappointed with their calculated grades can access a final appeals process independent of the Department of Education, it has emerged

On Monday morning, students began checking an online portal detailing grades estimated by their schools, as distinct from final calculated grades.

In more than 20 per cent of cases, these were changed by the time they reached the students.

Some reductions will have meant the difference between securing a place on a preferred third level course or not.

Students will have until 5pm on Wednesday to lodge an appeal although these are limited to finding errors in the “transmission and processing of student data” as opposed to how decisions were arrived at.

“It is not possible to appeal the information provided by the school. Due to the nature of the Calculated Grades system the professional judgement of the school is outside of the appeals process,” the Department said in a circular to students on Monday.

It did not release details of traffic to the portal on Monday, which experienced some early minor access problems.

The appeals process can be accessed through the Calculated Grades Student Portal and results may be changed upwards, downwards or remain the same.

Stages one and two of the process will ensure the collection and processing of student data was done without error.

Students unhappy with that outcome can avail of a separate review by independent “appeals scrutineers”.

This third stage will again assess the procedures with access to documentation considered at the initial stages. Final complaints can be brought to the Ombudsman.

While there was little official reaction from teachers or students on Monday, some remain unhappy with the process and available remedies.

Dozens of disaffected students protested outside the Department of Education, seeking a more detailed appeals process that would take in academic records and give some redress with regard to missed college places.

Robert Hernon (18), one of those behind the demonstration, found his school’s estimate of 555 points had been reduced to 509 in the calculated process, costing him a place on his preferred course at Trinity College Dublin.

“It was a bit of a kick in the chest when you see teachers that really believe in you,” he said. “I know I have the grades to back it up…and [then] to be dragged down by an algorithm.”

However, Reuben Murray, president of the Irish Second Level Students Union, said Monday morning was relatively quiet, a probable reflection of recent CAO offers and the fact that many students are simply happy to be getting on with their lives.

“There is disappointment every year in the Leaving Certificate and this year students understand that there had to be a national standardisation process,” he said.

The main teachers’ organisations reported little in the way of reaction to the publication of schools’ estimated grades.

“I think most people would be relatively happy that the teachers had done their very, very best,” said Clive Byrne of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals.

Sinn Féin’s spokeswoman on Further and Higher Education, Rose Conway-Walsh, said many students and parents feel an acute sense of unfairness.

“They have lambasted the appeals process which just deals with clerical errors. They cannot appeal the injustice they feel,” she said.