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. In the absence of these examinations, every effort has been made to make the system as fair as possible for as many students as possible.
The process of national standardisation, which forms a key part of the Calculated Grades process, was applied to the information provided by schools in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard. In order to be fair to the class of 2020, the teacher judgements made at the level of the school had to be adjusted so that a common national standard was applied. It was inherent to the system of calculated grades that school estimates would be subject to adjustment through this standardisations process.
These adjustments 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.
A standardising process happens every year and would have happened in 2020 had the Leaving Certificate examinations been run as normal. In the system of calculated grades, the standardisation process applied uniformly across all subject and levels and school types. The degree to which mark changes occurred related to the degree of over or underestimation in the school estimates for each subject and each level. This means that 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 marks changes from the teacher estimates leading to grade changes in one or more of their subjects.
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).
While some students will be disappointed at the results they have achieved, this is the case every year when the Leaving Certificate results are published. It may be more difficult for students to understand when they see the estimated mark from the school.
The appeals process for Calculated Grades was open to students who were disappointed with the Calculated Grades they received in one or more subjects. In addition, students had the option to register to sit the 2020 written Leaving Certificate exams due to commence on 16 November, subject to public health advice.
The marking of the November examinations will rely principally on the expert judgment of the Chief Examiner and members of the senior examining team in the State Examinations Commission (SEC) based on the content of the examination papers and the demands of the marking scheme. This expert judgment approach will ensure that the standards applied in the marking of these examinations will be fair and valid for these candidates, who form a small subset of the overall candidature for Leaving Certificate 2020.
Leaving Certificate candidates sitting the written examinations in November who opted to receive Calculated Grades will be credited with the higher subject grade achieved between the Calculated Grade and the written examination.
2020 Applicants to the CAO will have their final Leaving Certificate results forwarded to the CAO, using their best results of examinations and Calculated Grades, where applicable. They will receive any relevant CAO offers that their results indicate, as a deferred offer for 2021/22.
The Department of Further and Higher Education have worked closely with the higher education institutions to increase the number of third level places available for incoming first years, for all CAO applicants. There were extensive additional higher education places in 2020 – the most places ever offered.