I propose to take Questions Nos. 147, 149 and 150 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.
For the 2020 CAO system to proceed to pave the way for entry to higher education for the majority of applicants within the current timelines, and in a manner than can be properly upheld, 2020 results and the results of leaving certificate examinations from previous years must be treated equally in the CAO system.
In order to help mitigate the impact of the changes to the grading system, I have announced the creation of an additional 1,250 places on high-demand courses in Higher Education Institutions. These places are provided in order to help ease anxiety and reduce uncertainty among students awaiting a CAO offer. Active engagement is currently underway with a view to providing further additional places in light of issues such as those raised by the Deputy.
Nonetheless, there will be fluctuations in CAO points this year, as there are every year, which will depend on the volume of applications, the number of applicants who meet the entry requirements, the number of places available and the grades received by applicants. As we are in the midst of a global pandemic and economic flux, there is more uncertainty 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.
The first indications regarding movements of CAO points will not be clear until the completion of the first round process on Friday 11 September. The full picture, taking account of all supply and demand variables, will not be known until all places are filled at the end of the CAO process. My Department will continue to monitor developments closely in collaboration with the higher education sector and the Department of Education.