Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Questions (374)

Mairéad Farrell


374. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will address a series of matters with regard to the calculated grades system (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6826/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Calculated Grades will be generated using a systematic model. It will combine estimates of a student’s expected performance  in a subject and level, with information about how students in the school have fared in this subject in recent years in line with national performance standards over time.

The first source of data will be provided by the subject teacher. It will then be aligned in the school, with teachers consulting on the results before the school’s principal reviews the process applied to assure the fair treatment of students. The school then sends the data to my Department.

A detailed document A Guide to Calculated Grades for Leaving Certificate students 2020 is available on my Department’s website. It explains further how the system will work. Detailed guidance for teachers on the operation of the calculated grades system is being finalised for issue to schools shortly.

There will be strong oversight and control and a number of inherent quality assurance measures to ensure students receive as fair a result as possible. The principles of equity, fairness and objectivity are paramount in the calculated grades system. Teachers are to focus objectively on information that is clearly about attainment in the subject and not about other factors such as the student’s background or circumstances.

Teachers are being asked to draw on existing records and other available evidence, to provide a fair, reasonable and carefully considered judgement of the most likely percentage mark that each student would have achieved if they had sat their examinations and completed coursework under normal conditions.

Teachers will use a number of records in assessing 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. They will not be simply passing on results from mock examinations or other tests. Junior Cycle results are not being used at an individual student level as a prediction of a student’s likely performance in this year’s Leaving Certificate.

The teacher’s judgement will be based on evidence of learning and achievement such as that indicated above up until the point of school closure on the evening of 12 March. Teachers will not set additional assessments for the purposes of determining an estimated percentage mark.

In the case of coursework that has already been completed, a teacher’s overall estimate should incorporate the mark they think that this coursework would have achieved if it had been marked in the usual way.

If a teacher has a real or perceived conflict of interest with a student in their class they must declare this to the school principal. There will be additional oversight by a nominated teacher and a deputy principal in such cases.

Where a student is studying one or more subjects outside of a recognised school, the Department will be flexible in accepting estimated marks and rankings from other schools or colleges, and will look at this issue on a case-by-case basis. In general, I can say that, provided an estimated mark and ranking can be generated from a teacher in a way that is fair to all candidates, my Department will seek to provide a calculated grade. Students will be able to use this calculated grade in the same way as a Leaving Certificate grade to satisfy minimum entry requirements.

When it was thought possible to hold written examinations but not orals or music performance tests, 100% marks were awarded for the cancelled orals and performance tests.  Awarding 100% for orals and music performance tests in the calculated grade system would not be fair to students. Calculated grades are the best way of getting an accurate estimation of what a student would have achieved across all components of their examination.

Teachers of languages will assess the student’s oral performance as well as their written skills to come to an estimated mark for each student. It was never intended to offer 100% for all practical or project work. Detailed guidance to assist teachers in formulating the estimated grade for each student will issue shortly and will address these components.

In the case of students who are entered to take their examinations through Irish, the teacher will base the estimate of the student’s likely performance on the assumption that this bonus is included in the estimate.

I am very conscious of the thousands of students who have applied to study in Northern Ireland, Britain, Europe and elsewhere. Contacts with the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland continue, as well as contacts with officials in the other devolved Governments in the UK. Departmental officials are engaging directly with UCAS to work through the key issues.   I have also written to my counterparts across the European Union to explain the decision regarding the Leaving Certificate and to ask for as much flexibility as possible for students coming from Ireland to study in other Member States.