Leaving Certificate calculated grades

Sir, – As someone who was sceptical about the decision of the Minister for Education last May to abandon the Leaving Certificate examination and to introduce a system of calculated grades, I am pleasantly surprised by the information released by Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris about the impact of the standardisation system used to calculate student grades.

The model used by the Department of Education to calculate grades seems to have avoided the pitfalls encountered in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in recent weeks. In Ireland, almost 80 per cent of the estimated grades submitted by the schools remain unchanged and 4 per cent have been increased by the standardisation process. And unlike other countries where estimated or calculated grades tend to exacerbate the disadvantage experienced by poorer and marginalised students, the standardisation process used here in Ireland ensured that this did not happen. The historic pattern of results in a student’s school was not included in the model, consequently the grades achieved by a student attending a school which traditionally had lower results were not affected by that factor or by factors such as student gender or school location.

On Monday next, when students receive their Leaving Certificate calculated grades, hopefully the majority will be satisfied with their results and will (on September 11th) be offered the course for which they applied in further or higher education. The fact that additional places will be available in higher education in the coming year should reduce the pressure on high-demand courses. There will of course be disappointed students, just as there are every other year when the Leaving Certificate results are issued. In 2019, 15 per cent of Leaving Cert students appealed their results, indicating that they had expected better grades. This year, just 17 per cent of schools’ estimated grades were reduced by one grade, and it is likely that students affected by this will be disappointed – as they would have been if they had sat the Leaving Certificate examination in June and were awarded a lower grade than they expected.

The system used and the outcomes will not satisfy everybody. It was not a perfect solution but it was the least worst option available at a very difficult and challenging time for our young people. Hopefully it will enable them to move on to the next stage of their lives if that is what they wish. For those who are disappointed. they will have an opportunity (Covid permitting) to sit the “real” Leaving Certificate in November. – Yours, etc,



(Emeritus Professor

of Education,

University College Cork),


Co Dublin.

Sir, – In all the recent discussion of inflated “calculated” 2020 Leaving Cert grades, one group has been consistently overlooked. Some 20,000 Leaving Cert students from previous years have also applied to start college this month. These students sat real exams and achieved real grades, yet they are now expected to compete against the class of 2020, many of whom will have inflated grades.

In my view, there are two fair ways that could help solve this problem. The pre-2020 students could be offered college places on the basis of the college entry requirements of 2019, or they could be awarded a bonus of 10 to 15 per cent (based on their existing total). Either of these methods should allow them to compete on a more level playing field with those award inflated “calculated” grades.

Unless the issue of “real grades” versus “inflated grades” is addressed immediately, the pre-2020 Leaving Cert students will have their legitimate expectations of a college place cast aside, simply because they did not leave school in 2020. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – The UK A-level results methodology was by common agreement a disaster on all fronts. It is therefore dispiriting to listen to our Minister for Education and commentators applauding the Irish approach to pupil assessment for being better than that of the UK. Surely we should aspire to a more challenging benchmark than that of our next-door neighbour? – Yours, etc,



Co Waterford.