Leaving Certificate and grade inflation

Sir, – The Leaving Certificate grades of students of all previous years were awarded on the basis of assessments made anonymously by teachers. The grades of the class of 2020 have been awarded largely on the basis of assessments made by teachers of their own students.

In estimating the grades which should be given to their students teachers were, of course, indirectly assessing their own work. They would hardly be human if they did not think they are better teachers than they are.

You report ("Big increase in top Leaving Cert grades", News, September 7th) that the scale of teachers' overestimated grades at higher level is such that 60 per cent of grades at that level would have had to be lowered if the intention was to bring them into line with those of previous years. Instead about 17 per cent of grades were reduced.

You report officials in the Department of Education as saying that the lowering of 60 per cent of estimated grades could have threatened confidence in the system.

I think this means that the incredible grades awarded by teachers had to be accepted lest the credibility of this year’s system be called into question.

That seems a little circular to me.

Attention has rightly been given to the disadvantage which will be suffered by the thousands of students who are seeking third-level places this year on the basis of their now-devalued grades in the examinations of prior years. But the effect will also be seen in 2021 and beyond. Students from the class of 2020 who do not get their desired third-level offers this year will find that their inflated grades from 2020 are a far more valuable currency if they choose to compete for a place in 2021 when, we must hope, things will have returned to something approaching normality.

Teachers may have made a rod for their own backs. They have inflated not only the grades for 2020 but also the expectations of students in their classes for examination in 2021.

Students who perform very well in 2021, but who do not get their desired courses because of the numbers of students from this year who choose to defer, will hardly thank their teachers for their fabulous generosity to the class of 2020. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.