Schools begin sending calculated Leaving Cert grades
Concern over difficulties getting grades for students taking subjects outside school
Leaving Cert grades are due to be issued as close as possible to the traditional date in mid-August. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times
Secondary schools are due to begin sending calculated grades for more than 60,000 Leaving Cert students to the Department of Education from this week.
An online portal is due to go live from midday on Monday which will allow schools to access students' subject levels and begin transmitting their grades.
A special unit has been established within the department to process the data provided by each school and operate national standardisation to ensure fairness.
The department will finalise grades for each student which are due to be issued as close as possible to the traditional date in mid-August.
Most school principals contacted by The Irish Times report that the process has gone smoothly so far.
Clive Byrne of the National Association of Principals and Deputies said the general consensus was that schools were engaging positively and professionally with the process.
“We’re not getting any negative kick-back on it. No one is saying this is ideal, but there is a crisis and everyone is getting on with it,” he said.
He said while there were anecdotal reports of schools being contacted or pressurised by parents over students’ grades, he was not aware that this had happened on any significant scale.
Mr Byrne said, however, there was some worry about accessing reliable information to provide grades for students who are taking subjects outside school, such as a minority or non-curricular language.
Under official rules in these circumstances, principals must obtain an expected grade from a student’s tutor outside the school, which is combined with the student’s in-school grades.
If this is not possible, the department has pledged to examine these students’ grades on a case-by-case basis.
Some principals have also privately complained that a few grind schools, in particular, have been providing higher than average grades for students for subjects they are taking outside school.
Schools, meanwhile, are finalising the “school alignment” process where teachers work together to ensure there is a balance of accurate grades across students and classes.
The next phase involves school principals signing off on the grades, which are then sent to the department.
More than 60,000 Leaving Cert students have registered with a dedicated student portal to receive their grades.
This is more than 98 per cent of the total of 61,029 who had been expected to sit the Leaving Cert exams in 2020.
The department says it is continuing to engage with schools in an effort to establish why some students may not have registered on the portal.
Minister for Education Joe McHugh has said initial feedback from school management bodies and teacher unions on the operation of calculated grades has been positive, with teachers engaging in a professional manner with the process.
He also announced details of an independent monitoring committee which will oversee the calculated grades process.
It is chaired by Dr Áine Lawlor, former chief executive of the Teaching Council, and includes experts whose experience crosses education, governance, assessment and research.
They include Dr Peter Archer, former chief executive officer of the Educational Research Centre; Majella O’Shea, former deputy chief executive of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment; Joe Hamill, former secretary general of the Department of Arts and chair of the New Schools Establishments Group; Justin Edwards, chief executive of the Northern Ireland’s Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment; and Prof Michael O’Leary, professor of assessment at DCU.