Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Questions (656, 681)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

656. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the steps being taken to ensure that reapplicants that sat the leaving certificate in previous years are not locked out of third-level education in view of the inflation in CAO points in 2020; if work is being undertaken on finding a solution to resolve the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26287/20]

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Paul Kehoe

Question:

681. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the measures being taken to facilitate leaving certificate students from a previous year that are unsuccessful in the CAO in 2020 due to the increase in points caused by the calculated grades of the class of 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27160/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 656 and 681 together.

The CAO system is a system that works on the assumption that grades obtained in the Leaving Certificate by candidates determine their points. It is on this basis that the CAO system allocates places to applicants including those from different years. To ensure impartiality, the automatic CAO points systems have been created in a way that does not allow for different treatment to be applied to different sub-groups.

In order to help mitigate the impact of the changes to the grading system I announced the creation of an additional 2,225 places on high-demand courses in Higher Education Institutions. These places were provided in order ensure that as many students as possible could be accommodated on a course of their choice, given the unprecedented circumstances they are facing. These additional places meant that as of Round Two 63,338 applicants have received a CAO offer, more than in any previous year.

Nonetheless, there were fluctuations in CAO points this year, as there are every year. The changes in points depend not only on the grades received by applicants but also on the number of applicants, and the number of places available. As we are in the midst of a global pandemic and economic flux, there is more volatility than usual this year due to factors such as reduced opportunities in the economy, students seeking to defer or re-apply in subsequent years and uncertainty around students travelling internationally both to and from Ireland.

I appreciate how difficult a time it has been for students and parents, but I would like to stress the range of options available both in further education and training and apprenticeships, but also in pathways in higher education. For those whose route into higher education may not be what they originally planned, once they have a place there may be a pathway back to their preferred option.