State exam system will be reviewed so mistake fixes can be ‘timely’ - Minister

Pledge comes after student Rebecca Carter wins court case over mistake in totting up her Leaving results

A review of the State school examination system will be undertaken to ensure future mistakes can be rectified “in a timely manner”, the Dáil has heard.

Minister for Employment Regina Doherty said the terms of reference of the review will be confirmed in the next few days.

She said there was a need to ensure that there was enough time for errors to be rectified and corrected “before somebody’s place is taken away for that academic year”.

Ms Doherty was responding to Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary who raised the High Court case won by student Rebecca Carter over the delay in rectifying a mistake in totting up her Leaving Certificate exam marks.


The mistake would have meant she could not take up a place on a veterinary medicine course this year as a correct tot of her marks would have given her sufficient points.

The Minister was not aware of other similar cases and could not say if there were others. “The review needs to be fulsome, and we need to be sure that when we’re finished such cases don’t happen again”.

Ms Doherty said had Ms Carter not taken her case she would have lost her university place “which I can’t stand over and neither can my Cabinet colleagues or Government”.

‘Clearly failing’

Mr Calleary said that if the State examination system cannot decide on appeals prior to allocation of places “the system is clearly failing”.

He said there was a “major resource issue in terms of recruiting examiners” and that 1,700 examiners corrected 390,000 papers in 54 days.

“With that kind of pressure mistakes will be made,” he said.

Mr Calleary also highlighted resource concerns about examiners using “pens and pencils” without access to IT systems.

Ms Doherty said mistakes were made “because people are human, not because they were under pressure” and did not have access to IT systems.

She said the review would take into account the number of people sitting the exam, the general average of people who make appeals and the length and duration of those appeals.

In the appeals process “in that section of time when most secondary school teachers have gone back to work maybe we need to address recruitment”.

Ms Doherty said that as a mother of somebody the same age “the smile on that young lady’s face /[after the court verdict/] was worth a €1 million”.

She added that “as a politician, what happened is genuinely very regrettable”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times