Leaving Cert: Last-minute surge in registrations ahead of deadline

Vast majority of students have formally applied for exams, accredited grades or both

The vast majority of Leaving Cert students have registered for written exams or accredited grades ahead of a deadline which expired on Tuesday.

There had been concerns that many students risked missing out on sitting exams after one-in-five of the estimated 63,000 Leaving Cert candidates had failed to register by Monday evening.

However, a late surge in applications meant 95 per cent (57,182) Leaving Cert students and 91 per cent ( 2,797) of Leaving Cert Applied students had registered in time for the 6pm deadline on Tuesday.

Education authorities are satisfied the number will climb close to 100 per cent when students who have withdrawn from the Leaving Cert exams this year are formally included in the overall figures.

The registration deadline was extended until midnight on Tuesday for last-minute applicants, while the State Examinations Commission plans to follow-up with some individual schools to ensure students who intend to receive accredited grades or sit the exams are facilitated.

A breakdown of the numbers who plan to sit the exams in June and receive accredited grades will not be available until a later date, according to a Department of Education spokesman.

Students opting for both the exams and accredited grade options this year will automatically receive the better grade in each of their subjects.

The urgency of getting students to register was to ensure anyone who planned to sit exams would not miss out on marks for oral or coursework components, which take place over the coming weeks.

Candidates who have applied for accredited grades will get a further chance to finalise their selected levels for subjects – higher, ordinary or foundation – by end of April/early May.

This will be final because teachers are due to enter the formal estimation process for the accredited grades process shortly afterwards.

Candidates opting to sit the written exams will be permitted to change their levels on the day of the exam, as they do in a normal year.

Coding errors

Meanwhile, a Canadian company linked to coding errors which led to thousands of Leaving Cert students receiving incorrect grades last year has defended the quality of its work.

About 14,000 Leaving Cert grades were incorrectly issued last year due to errors in the standardisation process used to adjust teachers’ estimates grades for consistency and fairness.

Students who were wrongly downgraded were subsequently upgraded, while those who received higher grades than they should have were allowed to retain their grades.

Fernando Cartwright, chief executive of Polymetrika Inc, said independent reviews into the calculated grades process characterised its work as "remarkable".

"Ireland is noteworthy in that not only did we complete our work on calculated grades in less time than neighbouring jurisdictions, but ours was the only process that successfully achieved its goals," said Mr Cartwright.

“In any scientific process, a correct result is produced through trial and error. It is extremely unfortunate that the CAO timelines required a release of the results prior to the completion of the review of the work, but it is better to seek out and remedy errors, even when it is inconvenient, than to bury them for expediency.”

Mr Cartwright said while he was bothered by “misleading” characterisations last autumn about its work, he was more concerned with ensuring the accuracy of results and fair outcomes for students.

“It was incredibly frustrating to bear silent witness to ill-informed judgments about the process and myself at the time, but I am proud of the quality of the work and my integrity in supporting it,” he said.

Minister for Education Norma Foley said on September 30th last that Polymetrika had first identified an error which affected the way candidates' Junior Cycle results were included in the standardisation process. A total of four errors were subsequently found in the standardisation process.

Mr Cartwright said any depiction placing sole responsibility for success or failure of any aspect of the Leaving Cert 2020 project on Polymetrika would be inaccurate.

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