Leaving calculated grades and gender bias


Sir, – Prof Pat O’Connor rightly points out that the process this year of awarding estimated Leaving Certificate grades may contain some built-in biases (“Leaving Cert calculated grades open to danger of gender bias”, Opinion & Analysis, July 1st).

She points out that female students may be at a disadvantage. This may well be the case (although I hope not).

However, the available evidence – such as it is – suggests that the bias may run the other way, and that male students may be at a disadvantage.

In a recent summary document outlining the possible biases associated with estimating A-level grades, the Royal Statistical Society in the UK has highlighted some evidence that boys do better in exams than in coursework and that this may affect predicted grades.

The society expressed similar concerns regarding students from ethnic-minority groups.

For this reason, it is important for the Department of Education to put in place robust, evidence-based statistical models to screen for such biases. – Yours, etc,



School of Mathematics

and Statistics,

University College Dublin,


Dublin 4.