The Leaving Cert – outsourcing a fiasco


Sir, – Those who were mistakenly downgraded will get upgrades, which is only fair. On Friday we found out that some who were mistakenly upgraded will be allowed to keep their extra points. Well, it would be harsh to take them away.

It seems the only students to suffer are those who got the correct grades but missed out on courses because those who got the extra points by mistake got the places instead of them.

Perhaps they should go into politics or the judiciary. There you can make mistakes and still keep your place. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – I have to question the recent statement by Norma Foley that “one line of code out of 50,000 lines had a mistake in it”.

I’m a programmer and the rule of thumb is that programmers can write 50 to 100 lines of production-quality code in a day.

If there were 50,000 lines of code, that should have taken between 500 and 1,000 person-days to write. It is impossible to produce reliable code any faster. They didn’t have the time and the stated budget is a fraction of what it would cost to do so.

How many lines of code were developed specifically for this application? How many programmers worked on it and for how long? What quality control and testing were in place?

I do not count lines of code in included software libraries or frameworks when assessing the size or scale of a programme. What I count is the number of lines of code actually developed for the application itself. Errors in stable software libraries are not unknown but are pretty unusual.

I struggle with the idea that an application like this, which is relatively simple, could possibly require a 50,000-line full-custom code-base. – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.

Sir, You report that Polymetrika was awarded a contract involving it in this year’s Leaving Cert without going through the usual tendering process. You quote a Department of Education spokeswoman as stating that Polymetrika was hired simply on the basis of its “recognised expertise”. You then report that a contract has now been awarded to ETS Educational Testing Service “to review essential aspects of the coding”. Was this new contract put out to tender, or is this another case of the department having simple faith in an entity’s recognised expertise?

ETS agreed to pay out $11.1 million to settle a class-action lawsuit. In a teacher-licensing exam run by ETS, around 27,000 teachers received lower scores than they had earned, with 4,100 wrongly failed, the result of a scoring error.

ETS was also described in the UK parliament as a “shambles”.

Does the department have any plans to contract another company to check the work of ETS? Or does it have full confidence in its latest hire?

What could possibly go wrong? – Yours, etc,


Las Palmas,


Sir, – When does hapless become hopeless? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 24.