More than 550 students who sat postponed Leaving Cert to get improved CAO offers

Talks get under way on alternative ‘non-exam’ option for 2021 Leaving Cert

More than 550 students who sat the postponed Leaving Cert are to receive improved CAO offers this week on foot of securing improved grades in the written exams.

A total of 2,000 students who sat the Leaving Cert written exams in November and December received their results last week.

Almost 40 per cent of grades achieved were higher than those given through the calculated grade process.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has confirmed that a total of 554 honours degree college offers will be made to students this week, along with 37 advanced certificate/ordinary degree offers.


These students will be be able to take up their new college courses from next September without any financial penalty.

This means they will still be entitled to “free fees” or Susi grants, depending on individual circumstances.

Meanwhile, talks are set to get underway this week on detailed planning for Leaving Cert exams and an alternative “non-exam” option for1 students.

Minister for Education Norma Foley confirmed the move last Friday following a meeting with representatives of teachers, students, principals and parents.

Sources say it is likely that the alternative option will be a modified version of last year’s calculated grades model, which involved teachers assessing their own students and a national standardisation process.

It is also likely to take account of students’ performance in orals, practical and coursework.

These additional components account for between 25 and 50 per cent of marks, depending on individual subjects.

‘Intensive’ discussions

Ms Foley has invited education stakeholders to participate in “intensive” and “confidential” discussions with Department of Education officials to progress work on these two distinct processes for this year’s Leaving Cert students.

Discussions on the future of Junior Cycle exams will continue in these engagements.

The agreement of teachers’ unions to any alternative assessment option will be crucial, as they will most likely be required to assess their students in some form.

Both secondary teachers’ unions – the Teachers’ Union of Ireland and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland – have accepted invitations to enter into the discussions.

None of the unions was prepared to comment at the weekend, although both have previously expressed their opposition to re-running the calculated grades process.

The Irish Second Level Students’ Union, which wants students to be given a choice between sitting exams and calculated grades, welcomed the development as a “step in the right direction”.

It said it will continue to advocate for clear plans and information to be given to students as quickly as possible.

The department, meanwhile, has indicated that any alternative to the exams will need to include the following features:

  • The State Examinations Commission running both the exams and the corresponding process;
  • Better provision for out-of-school learners in the corresponding process;
  • Some cognisance of performance in "additional component" elements of examinations (coursework, orals, practicals, etc);
  • Timely progression to higher and further education using either exams or the outcome of any corresponding process.

A spokesman for the department said discussions will be “focused and immediate” with the aim of providing plans to students as quickly as possible on how the exams will be held and details of the alternative option.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent