No plan to recast Leaving Cert grades for schools who ‘lost out’

Calculated grades process biased against them, claim cohort of private academies

A further 800 college places are to be found in third-level colleges in a last-minute bid to ease the expected upward pressure on CAO points due to grade inflation this year. File photograph: The Irish Times

A further 800 college places are to be found in third-level colleges in a last-minute bid to ease the expected upward pressure on CAO points due to grade inflation this year. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

The Government is not planning to recalculate grades for individual schools despite calls from some who insist they have “lost out” under the process.

A number of private and grind schools claim the proportion of high grades awarded to their students is significantly down compared to their previous track results.

One of the highest profile cases is St Kilian’s Deutsche Schule in Dublin, where the school expected half of its students to secure a H1 in German based on past performance. Instead, just 14 per cent secured this grade under the new calculated grades process.

However, Government sources say an analysis of the calculated grades issued overall shows no bias in the extent of the increase in marks by type of school.

On the issue of St Kilian’s, one well-placed source said schools should look at their achievement across all subjects and not a selected few.

This is on the basis that the Department of Education’s standardisation process drew on the Junior Cert performance of students in a class across five subjects: Irish, English, maths and their two other best subjects.

Standardisation 

However, this information fed into a composite score, so high achievement in an individual subject was averaged out across all subjects.

As a result, while the standardisation process may have missed an outstanding performance for a class in a particular subject, students should have benefited when all subjects are taken into account.

A number of grind schools, in particular, maintain that this not the case and at least one is understood to be considering legal action on the basis that the process was “unfair” towards high-achieving schools.

Some claim that the proportion of teachers’ estimated marks that were downgraded was up to 40 per cent or more, well in excess of the 17 per cent national average.

School sources claim their historical performance is also down this year and feel they were disadvantaged by a Government decision to withdraw a controversial “school profiling” measure from the calculated grades process.

This was due to take into account a school’s performance in the Leaving Cert over three years. However, it was withdrawn due partly to concerns that it could disproportionately penalise students in disadvantaged schools.

Some Government sources have suggested that the reason for a higher than average proportion of downgrades from teachers’ estimates in some schools was due to major “overestimation” by teachers.

In some cases, individual schools are understood to have overestimated the proportion of top estimated grades for their students by a factor of two or three times their historical averages.

Meanwhile, a further 800 college places are to be found in third-level colleges in a last-minute bid to ease the expected upward pressure on CAO points due to grade inflation this year.

Concern

It follows concern over the extent to which grade inflation will devalue the results of thousands of students who completed their Leaving Cert in previous years.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris told the Dáil that he had been working in the last few days to see if there was any way possible to create more capacity “even at this stage”.

Following engagement with the Higher Education Authority and third-level institutions, he said these 800 additional college places will be in addition to 1,250 announced last week.

But he said they were now “at the outer limit” of the additional capacity they could provide.

Many of the additional places will be in high-demand courses in areas such as medicine, nursing, law and business.

Separately, the trade union representing thousands of special needs assistants has said fewer than half of schools providing basic personal protective equipment to its members.

Fórsa said that a survey of its 2,100 members found that only 49 per cent were able to confirm that their school had provided medical-grade face masks, while 17 per cent reported that they had been asked to re-use personal protection equipment.