Leaving Cert oral students marked down ‘through no fault of their own’

Examiners say they were instructed not to flag concerns over shortcomings in the interviews

One examiner for the German orals marked 78 candidates and estimates a majority lost marks due to omissions on the part of teachers who conducted the interviews. Photograph: Getty Images

One examiner for the German orals marked 78 candidates and estimates a majority lost marks due to omissions on the part of teachers who conducted the interviews. Photograph: Getty Images

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Significant numbers of Leaving Cert students ended up being marked down in their oral exams this year through no fault of their own due to shortcomings in the way interviews were conducted, according to some examiners.

In a change to normal practice, oral exams were conducted by teachers in students’ schools and recordings were marked later by the State Examinations Commission (SEC).

Some examiners who spoke to The Irish Times said teachers in many cases did not correctly follow instructions on how to conduct oral exams or ask enough mandatory questions. In some cases, key sections of the oral interviews were omitted entirely.

As a result, they said they had no choice but to mark students down, resulting in significant numbers of candidates losing marks.

When examiners flagged concerns over a poor standard of interviews in some cases with their advisory examiners, they were told not to record them in writing.

One email from an advising examiner, seen by The Irish Times, requested that examiners “not mention anything about the interviewers at all”.

“In other words, please don’t write about whether interviews were too long or short, whether too many or too few questions were asked or whether role plays were well examined or not,” it states.

Omissions

One examiner for the German orals marked 78 candidates and estimates that a majority lost marks due to omissions on the part of teachers who conducted the interviews.

The examiner said: “To penalise students for no fault of their own is not fair, nor is it candidate-centred.”

In response to questions, the SEC said it was reliant on locally appointed teachers and school management ensuring the tests were conducted in compliance with the instructions.

“Given that this process is ongoing and that candidates who sat these oral tests are now undertaking their final written examinations, the SEC believes it would be inappropriate and unfair on candidates to offer any further comment at this time, other than to confirm its commitment to ensuring that candidates are treated fairly and equitably...”