A fair solution for Leaving Cert students


Sir, – Emeritus Prof Áine Hyland is correct. If at all possible, the best least-worse solution to this year’s third-level entry is to run the Leaving Certificate examinations.

However, if the current restrictions remain into May, it is unlikely that running the Leaving Cert exams in June will be fair, even if possible. Indeed, the awarding of full marks for orals and practicals but not project work may have completely undermined any possible fairness.

If the exams are not held in June, they could, with some imagination, be squeezed into July. But this would require the removal of the current restrictions on social contact. And this in turn depends on progress in tackling the virus. Another good reason for students, currently, to stay home. Even at that, July is a long shot given the need for State Examination Commission officers to be able to physically organise the examinations in advance.

Given the time and operational requirements of the exams, If the Leaving Cert exams are not held by July, it is difficult to see how they could be used at all for third-level entry without a knock-on effect throughout the duration of students’ third-level courses.

This means that if the exams are not held by July, and if we want to avoid delays to third-level courses in the autumn, then another solution to third-level entry is required.

Random selection would be undesirable, unfair and likely to lead to litigation.

Some online have suggested using “predicted grades”. But they have not defined what this means, given examples of how predicted grades could be arrived at, explained how this could be processed into CAO points, suggested how this would be fair to all students, failed to recognise that predicted grades are not, as quoted, being used in the UK, and doesn’t recognise, as Prof Hyland does, that the Irish education system is not set up to use such grades, and that ultimately, predicted grades are unfair to most students.

In this case, the best and fairest solution is for this year’s students to sit a general abilities test such as the CAT4 (or similar), of which most students already have experience. Without going into the details, such a test and its results could be processed more quickly than the Leaving Cert exams.

Restrictions will most likely be lifted by August and such test could be held over one or two days then. General abilities test are, all things held constant, better indicators of student success at third-level courses than the Leaving Certificate. And students’ current learning would still be useful for such a test.

Obviously there are certain disadvantages to this but it is essential that any solution is fair to all students, not just those with access to technology and money. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 22.