Leaving Cert grades error: higher marks for 6,100 students following review

CAO to determine which students are entitled to offer of a different third level course

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD has announced that some 6,100 students have been awarded improved Leaving Cert marks following a review of the calculated grades system. Video: RTE News Now / Dept. of Education & Skills


Some 6,100 students have been awarded improved Leaving Cert marks following a review of the calculated grades system after a number of errors were discovered.

All students due to receive corrected, higher grades can access their revised results on Calculated Grades portal which re-opened this evening.

The revised data has also been sent to the CAO so it can determine which students may be entitled to an offer of a different third level course.

Outlining the findings of the review this evening, the Minister for Education Norma Foley said 5,408 students would see the grade of one of their Leaving Cert subjects increase.

She said that 621 students would receive a higher grade, by one grade band, in two subjects while a further 71 students are set to receive a higher grade, by one grade band, in three or more subjects.

The maximum number of grades upgraded for one student was five.

Overall, 6,870 grades will increase affecting 6,100 students in 614 of the 741 schools and other centres recognised to hold the Leaving Certificate. No student will receive a lower grade although it is understood that a comparable number of students would technically be due a downgrade as a result of the errors in the system.

Last week, one error was identified in a line of code programmed by Canadian firm Polymetrika International Inc.

It affected the way in which candidates’ Junior Cycle results were used in the standardisation process.

A second error also related to Junior Cycle was also detected. It involved the use of results for a subject – Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) – that were not supposed to have been used in the first instance.

The errors means the grades for 6,100 students were reduced when the results were analysed as part of the Calculated Grades national standardisation process.

Following the identification of the errors the Minister for Education commissioned Education Testing Services (ETS) to review the coding.

ETS subsequently raised two further issues. The first was an error which occurred in the use of data, where a student did not sit all three core subjects at Junior Cycle.

In such cases, the system was meant to use the average national Junior Cycle score, in the missing subject, of the group of students who took their Leaving Certificate in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Instead, the code chose that student’s next best subject for inclusion in the group computation.

The second issue raised by ETS was how the algorithm treated students’ marks at the extreme ends of the scale.

ETS noted the treatment did not exactly match what is described in the national standardisation group’s report. However, this issue did not have any meaningful impact on results. The ETS statement says a student could not have received a lower grade as a result of this issue.

While the number of errors identified has increased, the number of students negatively impacted is lower than the estimate of 6,500 provided last week.

“Last week I expressed my regret to students for what had happened. I want to reiterate that today,” Ms Foley said at a press conference on Saturday evening.

She said this year’s Leaving Cert students had had “an exceptionally difficult year” and said she was “ sorry for that. And I’m sorry this last week delivered more uncertainty”.

Responding Irish Solidarity–People Before Profit TD Mick Barry said he wanted the Minister to now explain now how many students missed out on a college courses, because approximately 6,000 students had also had their Leaving Cert grades overestimated.

“The Minister confirmed this evening that the number of students who had their grades overestimated is roughly equal to the 6,100 who had their grades underestimated.”

“It is not acceptable that students be squeezed out of their chosen courses as a result of a mistake made by the Department of Education.

“The only way this situation can be rectified is by the Minister telling us how many students lost out as a result and increasing the number of course places by at least a corresponding amount,” he said.

Last week, the Department of Education defended its decision to hire Polymetrika. It was paid a total of €163,000 by the Department of Education without a tendering process.

The department said a full procurement process did not take place because there was “insufficient time” to do so.

On Saturday the Minister said she had yet to consider the potential legal implications of the errors and stressed she had primarily been focused on resolving the grades issue so students could have clarity on their results and the impact this would have on their college applications.

  • A Department of Education helpline for students is in place and will open between 11m and 4pm on Sunday.
  • Email queries can be sent to: LC2020@education.gov.ie .