Minister for Education Norma Foley has defended the integrity of record-breaking high grades awarded to Leaving Cert students on the basis that students "got what they deserved".
This year’s results climbed to a record high with a sharp increase in the number of students securing top grades.
Ms Foley said it has been a particularly challenging 18 months for students on the back of school closures and disruption to their education.
She said the decision to provide a “unique” system of accredited grades and written exams was aimed at ensuring equity and fairness for these students and “today is a reward for them.”
“We’re looking at a cohort of students who, over two years of senior cycle, lost 14 weeks of in-person schooling ... it was important that accommodation was made for that,” she said.
In response to the scale of grade inflation, she said this year’s cohort of students faced a unique set of circumstances.
“Students rose to the challenge, they did the work, they did all that was demanded of them ... I congratulate them sincerely. I am immensely proud of them and I know from speaking to their teachers and the school community that each one in their own right is bursting with pride that students have got what they deserved.”
When asked whether the Leaving Cert in 2022 will involve the option of accredited grades, the Minister said planning was in the direction of a traditional exam structure, but that the situation remained under review until the end of Covid.
While there are concerns that higher grades will push up CAO points, Ms Foley said significant additional higher education places are being provided this year to ease some of this pressure.
It is understood more than 4,500 additional higher education places are due to be added into the system this year.
Teachers’ unions, meanwhile, have insisted they remain opposed to assessing their own students for State certificate purposes.
Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) president Martin Marjoram said the union's co-operation with this year's accredited grades system was on an emergency basis.
“We state once again that our co-operation with these processes was only on the basis of necessity due to the national health emergency and this remains the case,” he said.
Mr Marjoram said the union is engaging “positively” with a review of senior cycle.
“At all times, our overall position is clear and unambiguous – State certification is key to all developments and must be retained. TUI members are fundamentally opposed to assessing their own students for State certificate purposes and therefore external assessment and State certification – which retain significant public trust – are essential.”
Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI)president Eamon Dennehy said he welcomed a recent statement by the Minister for Education that she intends Leaving Cert 2022 will go ahead as normal.
"Young people deserve a State exams process that is consistent with their expectations and that they can trust. External assessment administered by the State Examinations Commission ensures that the Leaving and Junior Cert exams processes remains transparent, objective and fair."
Separately, Ms Foley has said her department will following public health advice on whether masks are needed for primary pupils.If any changes were required, they would be implemented.
Ms Foley said C02 monitors, which had been ordered three months ago, were “arriving” at schools, but that in the meantime school staff were “very practical” and aware of the importance of natural ventilation through doors and windows. If any school was experiencing difficulty, emergency works could be provided, she said.