Q&A: How will calculated grade changes affect CAO points for college courses?

Higher grades will push up points, but additional places may ease some pressure

A large majority (79 per cent) of students’ estimated grades given by their teachers and schools will remain the same.

A large majority (79 per cent) of students’ estimated grades given by their teachers and schools will remain the same.

 

Firstly, how have students fared under the new calculated grades system this year?
A large majority (79 per cent) of students’ estimated grades given by their teachers and schools will remain the same.

The remainder will be either reduced (17 per cent) or increased (4 per cent).

Overall, the calculated grade results are set to be more generous than results for previous Leaving Cert classes.

What does this mean for CAO points?
The fact that calculated grade results are set to be more generous than results for previous Leaving Certs means students, on the whole, will achieve higher grades.

This, it seems likely, will result in higher CAO points in many cases.

However, the Government is announcing more than 1,000 higher and further education places. These include additional places for high-demand courses such as nursing, pharmacy, medicine and post-primary teaching.

This may take some of the heat out of CAO points race, which is largely based on supply and demand - but it remains to be seen

I applied for college this year on the basis of my results in 2019? Will I lose out?
In short, yes. This year’s cohort of Leaving Certs will achieve higher grades than in previous years.

This will place those applying on the basis of results achieved before this year at a disadvantage in the points race, because their results were not marked as generously.

Department of Education officials say they had to achieve a balance between adjusting this year’s results to ensure they were in line with results in previous years - and ensuring “fairness and acceptability” for this year’s cohort of students.

They opted to place a heavier emphasis on the latter.

They say, however, that the creation of more than 1,000 higher and further education places should ensure that more students than ever will be able to get their first place preference. This should take some of the heat of the points race, though the extent to which this occurs remains to be seen.

What information has been used to determine my predicted grades?
Firstly, the school issued an estimated grade based on what it thought you ould achieve in the exam, along with where it thought you ranked in your class.

This information, according to the Department of Education, is at the core of the process.

As part of the “standardisation” process - in which grades are adjusted up or down - it also took into account the likely Leaving Cert performance of your class based on how students fared in the Junior Cert.

In addition, the historic pattern of Leaving Cert results nationally was taken into account, though the importance placed on this was “lessened”, according to department officials.

I’m in a school which has a poor track record. Will I be penalised on the basis of this?
There were plans to include “school profiling” in the calculated grades process.

This was due to take account of an individual school’s track record in the last three years in determining whether teachers’ estimated grades were accurate.

However, this has been removed from the calculated grades process, in light of controversy in the UK which saw disadvantaged students disproportionately downgraded.

Department officials say the final calculated grades in Ireland do not impact unfairly on students in disadvantaged schools,

A breakdown of the new grades, for example, show the proportion of downgrades for students in disadvantaged or Deis schools is smaller (13.6 per cent) compared to other schools (16.8 per cent).

I’m in a new school which has never had a Leaving Cert class. How will this impact on me?
It shouldn’t. The Department of Education says a teacher’s estimated grade and class ranking

are the most important pieces of information in the calculated grades process. As part of the “standardisation” process - in which grades are adjusted up or down - it says this took into account the likely Leaving Cert performance of your class based on how students fared in the Junior Cert.

I moved school in sixth year to a grind school. How will this affect my calculated grade?
Officials say moving school shouldn’t impact on a student or school’s grades. Again, teachers’ estimated grades carry the most weight.

While the standardisation process includes the likely performance of a Leaving Cert class based on how they performed in the Junior Cert, there were methods to account for the fact that some classes did not sit the Junior Cert together.

For example, many grind schools operate in senior cycle only. In these cases, it is understood that virtual Junior Cert classes were constructed based on students’ individual performance in different schools.

Why are students’ results being standardised, anyway?
Even in normal years, Leaving Cert results are adjusted - or standardised - to ensure results are broadly consistent from year to year and to avoid grade inflation.

This year, it was used to ensure all students were treated fairly and to prevent students’ being given unrealistically high grades.

For example, this year officials found that the proportion of top grades awarded by some teachers had doubled or even tripled in some school compared to previous years.

As a result, some grades were adjusted to being them into line with what was considered more realistic.

How does the Irish system of calculated grades differ from the UK system?
Officials say there are three crucial differences:

1. The Irish system, they say, gives “primacy” to teachers’ estimated marks
2. There is more precise information collected about student achievement, such as per centage marks rather than estimated grades
3. There are in-built systems to identify exceptional students, irrespective of the school they attended

What happens next?
The Department of Education is due to transfer all calculated grades to the CAO on September 4th.

The results will be issued to students and schools at 9am on September 7th.

CAO offers are due to be released on September 11th.

An appeals process opens on September 14th, while all students will be able to access their schools’ estimated mark and class ranking.

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