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Dublin private school says its students were ‘significantly penalised’ by Leaving Cert calculated grades process

The Institute of Education wrote to the Taoiseach today claiming its students had been penalised by “the bias” within the process.

A DUBLIN-BASED private school has said that 96% of its students had a grade in one of their Leaving Cert subjects reduced under the calculated grades system and claimed its students have been “significantly disadvantaged” by the process.

In a letter to the Taoiseach, the prinicipal and two directors of the Institute of Education said “fundamental bias” was used in the methodology of assigning calculated grades to students at the school, according to data analysis it had commissioned.

The school – which also offers grinds and part-time courses – said that “given the unique nature of our school” its pupils had been “significantly penalised by this process”. 

On Monday, the Leaving Cert class of 2020 were given their results based on a calculated model as they were unable to actually sit the exams due to Covid-19.

After criticism that a school’s past performance would play a part in the algorithm used to calculate a student’s grade, Education Minister Norma Foley confirmed last week that this would not be used to “standardise” results.

The results students in Ireland received this week are based on teacher and school input along with other information as part of a process designed by experts from the State Examinations Commission and other agencies. 

The Department of Education said that average Leaving Cert marks across all subjects and at all levels were up by an average of 4.4%.

While marks may have been adjusted, there has been no change of grade between the school estimate and final result in 79.2% of cases; 83.1% of all grades are either the same or higher than the school estimates while 16.9% of grades are lower.

The Institute said that 44% of all grades awarded by its teachers were reduced, compared to the national average of around 17%.

In its letter to the Taoiseach, principal Yvonne O’Toole and directors Peter Kearns and Una Kearns said the system “adversely affects our students for several reasons”. 

They said the Institute is a “high performing school” which year-on-year “significantly outperforms the national average”. 

The school had a class of over 600 students in its Leaving Cert class so the predictive grading model had exacerbated the impact on students, they said.

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“We understand that many of our students will independently seek redress for the injustice that has been perpetrated against them,” the letter stated.

The school called for the grounds of appeal to be broadened to include an examination of the student’s performance in a subject as otherwise it would compel these students “concerned to exercise their legal rights including recourse to the courts with all of the associated burden of stress, anxiety and financial risk and adverse publicity”. 

It also called for students not to lose out on their CAO place that “would have been offered if they had been treated fairly”. The first round of CAO offers are due to be released tomorrow.

The letter added: “It is clear that our cohort of students have been significantly disadvantaged, we also note that other schools within the Voluntary Secondary School sector with high achieving students have also received grades that do not make any sense.”

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

The Institute of Education on Leeson Street in Dublin.

The Institute of Education on Leeson Street in Dublin.

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