Teachers must declare conflicts of interest when grading Leaving Cert students

Deputy principal may be asked to mark student if a teacher is grading their child

Teachers will be directed to declare conflicts of interest when grading Leaving Cert students who are close family members under official guidance to be issued shortly.

In such circumstances, another teacher in the school or the deputy principal may be asked to examine available evidence of a student’s performance and mark the candidate accordingly.

School principals are also likely to be required to confirm that assessment grades and the rank order of students in a class are a true representation of student performance, according to sources.

Teachers’ unions and principals were consulting with the Department of Education on Tuesday over the final details of the official guidance which is due to be issued to thousands of teachers in the country’s 700-plus secondary schools this week.

Calculated grades

Following the Government decision earlier this month to cancel the summer Leaving Cert exams, more than 60,000 students are set to receive calculated grades for the first time based on teachers’ estimates.

Under this approach, teachers will be asked to provide an estimated percentage mark for each student for each subject. Students will also be placed in a rank over for their class.

The guidance is understood to state that teachers should draw on "existing records and available evidence" such as classwork, homework, class assessments, Christmas and summer exams and mock exams. Junior Cert results will not be considered.

Teachers will be required to provide a “fair, reasonable and carefully considered” judgement of the likely percentage mark each student would have achieved if they had sat their exams and completed coursework under normal conditions.

In order to determine where students rank individually in a class, each student may be marked out of 1,000 and these scores will then be converted to per centages.

These grades will then be sent to the Department of Education where a unit will compare information on how students in the school have fared in particular subjects in the Leaving Cert over the past three years compared to the national standard.

It will also review the performance of this year's group of students against their overall performance at Junior Cycle level.

This, the department says, will allow it to check whether the estimated percentage marks in each subject in the school are reasonable. These marks may be aligned upwards or downwards, accordingly.

Inappropriate contact

The guidance is also expected to state that any attempt to offer teachers gifts or inducements in relation to students’ results will also be treated as a “serious attempt”to interfere with an entire school’s grades.

Unions have also been pushing for a protocol to be included in the guidance which states that any inappropriate contact with teachers or schools will be formally recorded and forwarded to the department.

Latest guidance from the department states that parents or students must not under any circumstances contact, directly or indirectly, a teacher or other staff member to discuss estimated marks or class rankings.

“Such contact would be regarded as totally inappropriate and a serious attempt to interfere with the fairness and objectivity required of teachers and schools in the assigning of estimated marks and ranking for the individual student concerned and for the students in the school as a whole,” according to new department guidance.

It also says any attempt by teachers to allow discussion of estimated grades before the process is complete would interfere with the process being carried out properly and fairly.

If teachers discuss the marks with some students but not others, or if some teachers did this and others did not, these discussions might actually influence or be construed as influencing the mark the teacher submits to the subject alignment group.

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