Thursday, 24 September 2020

Questions (134)

Richard Boyd Barrett


134. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education her plans to set up a formal appeals process for students that have had their leaving certificate results downgraded by her Department as against the grade awarded to them by their teacher; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25997/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a direct result of COVID-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations. The purpose of this process is to allow as many students as possible to progress to employment, further education and training, or higher education in a way that is fair and equitable to all Leaving Certificate students.

Schools provided an estimated percentage mark and a rank order for each student’s subjects. The process of national standardisation was applied to the school information in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard. We know from research that teachers are very good at making judgements about their students in the local context of the school. It was inherent to the system of calculated grades that school estimates would be subject to adjustment through this standardisation process. The adjustments that occurred through standardisation resulted in the school estimates staying the same or being revised upwards or downwards. The standardisation process operated on the premise that the school estimates should only be adjusted through the standardisation process where there was credible statistical evidence to justify changing them.

Following standardisation, the estimated percentage mark was converted to a calculated mark and subsequently, a calculated grade which was provided to students on 7 September. It is only at this point that students were awarded a grade.

Therefore, it is not accurate to state that student(s) were downgraded, or upgraded, through the standardisation process. Rather the grade that was awarded following the standardisation process is the grade for the 2020 Leaving Certificate (Calculated Grades).

Some students experienced mark changes from the school estimates but no changes to the grades based on the school estimates; while others will have experienced changes to the marks leading to a change in the grade that would have been awarded based on the school estimates in one or more of their subjects.

In terms of the grades awarded, 83% (almost 340,000) of all Leaving Certificate subject grades are either the same or higher than the school estimates while 17% (under 70,000) grades are lower.

Every effort has been made to make the system as fair as possible for as many students as possible. The statistical model used was blind to demographic characteristics, either at the level of the student or the school and the standardisation process has been applied uniformly across all schools. This means anyone using the certificate to make a judgement between two people who hold this certificate, either now or in the future, can place equal value on the same grade in the same subject, without regard to where they went to school.

I appreciate that some students will be disappointed at the results they have achieved. This is the case every year when the Leaving Certificate results are published.

Students, at an individual level, had access to an appeals process the closing date for which has now passed. The appeals system is, by design, restricted to looking for technical errors in the data provided on behalf of students and in the processing of that data. The nature of this appeal process has been part of the system of Calculated Grades from the outset. The appeal process will involve a technical appeal focused on looking for errors in the transmission of the data through the process. An example of this would be whether any mistake has been made in entering the information to any of the systems used in the process.

It was fundamental to the adoption of a system of Calculated Grades that the professional judgement of the school (teachers and principals) would be outside the scope of the appeals process.

The design of the statistical model and the application of the national standardisation process is also outside of the scope of the appeals process.

Students dissatisfied with the outcome of the appeals process can invoke a searate process to have their appeal reviewed by independent Appeals Scrutineers. These Scrutineers are independent of the Department.

Students who consider that their appeal has not been processed correctly can make a complaint to the Ombudsman or, in the case of students under 18 years of age, the Ombudsman for Children.

Students dissatisfied with their results will also have the opportunity to sit written Leaving Certificate examinations in November (subject to public health advice). Those who sit the examinations will be credited with the higher subject grade achieved between the Calculated Grade and the written exam.