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Announcement made on changes to the Leaving Certificate Exams

The Minister for Education Joe McHugh has cancelled the Leaving Cert exams for this year after months of discussions about whether or not to proceed with the exams. 

Here are the key points from today's announcement: 

What has been announced?

The 2020 Leaving Cert examinations had been scheduled to start on 29 July. They have now been cancelled and students will be offered 'calculated grades'.

Estimated marks and class rank orders will be collected from schools and will then be adjusted as part of a national standardisation process.

However, students will also have the opportunity to sit the exams at a later stage when it is safe to do so.

The Government has said: "The logistics of holding the exams, with all the precautions that would have to be put in place to prevent the risk of further infection, would mean that they would not be held under normal conditions."

Mr McHugh said the decision had been made because there was now "compelling advice which made proceeding with the exams impossible". 

How will the 'calculated grades' work?

There will be four layers to the calculated grades system:

  • An estimation of scores and rankings by a student's teacher. The teacher will estimate a percentage mark for each student, and also their ranking compared to classmates. This will happen for each individual subject. 

  • This will then be subjected to an in-school alignment process, in which subject teachers will work together to finalise their estimated marks and rankings. 

  • The school principal will review and sign off on marks, and may return estimated ranking or marks to teachers for further consideration.

  • A process of national standardisation, using statistical methods, will be used to ensure a common national standard is applied. 

Teachers will use records of a student's performance and progress; for example, classwork and homework; class assessments; examinations in school, at Christmas or summer, mock exams and also coursework.

Can students appeal the outcome?

Yes. The appeal will involve checks on school-entered data, correct transfer of that data to the department, and a review that it was correctly received and processed by the department.

If a student remains dissatisfied at the end of the process, they can seek verification of the department's processes by independent appeal scrutineers.

Under the calculated grades system, the percentage mark provided by the teacher cannot be reviewed. However, students will have access to the school-based data in the event that they appeal.

After the estimated percentage marks are received from all schools, the Department of Education will analyse them and carry out a process of standardisation.

They will compare the school's profile of achievement at Leaving Certificate over the past three years to the national standards, to build up a picture of school performance.

They will also review the performance of this year's group of students against their overall performance at Junior Cycle.'

What if a student wants to sit the exams and when would that happen?

The option to sit an exam will be available to any candidate unhappy with an appeal whenever it is deemed safe for them to be held.

However, if the exams are held after the summer then a student would not be able to attend third-level education this autumn.

What about the CAO process and when will third-level courses start?

No date has been finalised for the releasing of results to students under the calculated grades system, but Mr McHugh has said he would like it to be as close as possible to the traditional mid-August date.

Students' calculated grades will be transferred directly to the CAO, in the same way that examination results usually are.

The CAO timelines will run as close as possible to normal to allow for students to take up offers and to transition to third level, further education or work etc.

The Government has said that while it cannot be specific about that time-frame yet, it will be late September or early October.

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