We all saw and heard Ms Rebecca Carter this morning. She is an 18 year old student from Wexford who completed her leaving certificate examination this year hoping to get enough points to do veterinary medicine in University College Dublin, UCD. When Rebecca received her results in August, she fell just short for the first and second round offers and sought a recheck of her papers. That review revealed that the examiner had wrongly added up her marks. Had that error not occurred, Rebecca would have received a higher grade. She would have exceeded the points required and been offered a place. However, the State Examinations Commission, SEC, decided not to formally recheck her results before mid-October, thereby costing her the place in university she had earned. The commission says that any alleged error can only be corrected through the formal appeals process and that the error could not be dealt with through a rectification process. It is extraordinary that if the totting up error had appeared on the front cover of the examination script, it would have been rectified outside the normal appeals process but because it happened inside the paper, it had to be dealt with through the formal system. One could not make it up.
Rebecca decided she would not allow such absurd bureaucracy to waste her life. She took her case to the court and won it yesterday. She should be commended for shining a light on the system. However, the case has highlighted a number of serious deficiencies in our examination marking process. If the SEC cannot decide on an appeal prior to the allocation of places in the academic year for which students are sitting the leaving certificate examination, the system is clearly unfit for purpose. On RTÉ this morning, Brian Mooney, who is well respected in this area, said the examiners are totting up marks using their own pens and pencils. They do not have IT available to them to carry out that process. Deputy Thomas Byrne has pointed out for some time the inadequacies of the resources being allocated to the marking process for both the leaving certificate and junior certificate examinations. It was shown during the court hearing yesterday that 1,700 examiners marked 390,000 papers in 54 days. Mistakes will be made with that type of pressure on examiners but, as we saw in Rebecca's case, mistakes interfere with people's futures. Deputy Thomas Byrne has repeatedly pointed to a major resource issue in terms of recruiting examiners yet the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, continued to stick his head in the sand.
What plans has the Government to review the system and the outcome of the case yesterday? What does it say about our State examination marking system that a student must go to the High Court to get the place in university she has worked hard for awarded to her this year? Is the Government aware of any other such cases where errors in the process have cost people places?