Q&A: What does court ruling on calculated grades mean for Leaving Cert students?

Court’s finding to affect home-schooled and students taking subjects out of school

Mayo student Elijah Burke, pictured outside Leinster House, during a protest over his exclusion from the calculated grades process for Leaving Cert students. He won his High Court case on Wednesday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Mayo student Elijah Burke, pictured outside Leinster House, during a protest over his exclusion from the calculated grades process for Leaving Cert students. He won his High Court case on Wednesday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

What just happened?

Elijah Burke, a Leaving Cert student who was home-schooled by his mother, has won his High Court challenge against the Minister for Education’s decision to exclude him from the calculated grades process.

He claimed the exclusion of students who were tutored by a parent or close relative at home from the calculated grades process breached his rights and was unfair and discriminatory.

And what did the judge say?

Mr Justice Charles Meenan found the fact that the calculated grade system excluded home schooled students on the grounds that their parents had a conflict of interest was “irrational, unreasonable and unlawful.”

In Elijah’s case. his mother, who is a qualified teacher, taught him across nine subjects. He also completed mocks, assessments and other projects at home.

The judge noted that a system was in place in schools to deal with scenarios where a Leaving Cert student has been taught by a parent or relative in class. (In this case, another teacher estimates a student’s grades). However, so such system was in place for home-schooled students.

Does this ruling have implications for other students?

Yes. The judge said his decision was applicable to all students who find themselves in the same situation Elijah Burke.

The Department of Education told the court during the case that about 10 other home-schooled students were in exactly the same situation as Elijah and have been refused grades.

However, hundreds of other grades which have been refused under the calcualted grades process may also have to be reviewed. The department told the court that over 100 out-of-school students have been refused a grade on the grounds of not having a tutor. Some of this group are likely to be affected. Many more students taking subjects out of school may also be affected .

So, it’s not just home-schooled students affected?

Students who have taken a subject outside school and were taught by a relative or parent, and who have been refused calculated grades. are also affected.

For example, many students from non-Irish backgrounds who studied languages at home and were taught by a parent have been refused grades.

Eileen McCabe, Elijah’s solicitor, said the ruling means any home-schooled student or candidate taking a subject out-of-school who has been refused a grade on the basis that their teacher is a relative should now be entitled to have their work independently assessed. However, these students will need to show that they have a body of work to demonstrate their achievements.

What happens now?

A spokesman for the department said it will “consider the judgment carefully and provide further comment in the coming days”.

Under the ruling, the department must now arrange for an independent teacher to be assigned to examine Elijah’s body of work and decide if he is eligible for a grade.

It is likely that the department will have to do the same for other students in similar situations.

Does this cause problems for the department?

It’s the last thing they needed. All hands are on deck finalising calculated grades for thousands of students on September 7th.

It will need to act quickly to put a process in place to independently assess the work of students affected by the High Court ruling.