Leaving Cert results scandal: How these mistakes could have been avoided.

Roisin Travers

The Leaving Cert cohort of 2020 have suffered through enough uncertainty and mental anguish already, only for another curveball to be thrown their way. 

A staggering 7,200 students across the country received a text message from the calculated grades system last Saturday saying that their grades had been affected by the reissuing of the calculated grades.

There were three errors found in the system and it served as unjust to the students who have worked desperately hard to achieve a spot on their desired college course.

Let’s not forget that previous Minister for Education, Joe McHugh, couldn’t deliver clarity at a crucial time in these students’ lives. Perhaps if the decision to go with calculated grades was made quicker, there would have been more time to ensure that there were little to no mistakes with the system.

There were also minimal supports in place to cater for vulnerable students who were struggling to cope with the uncertainty during the last six months. If there had been additional help for these students, maybe they would have been equipped to deal with the mistakes in the system.

However, the calculated grades system was a challenging decision that the government had to make during unprecedented times.

Trial runs are very difficult to get right on the first go, and a large cohort of students are disappointed with their grades every year. Only this year, they could blame their teachers.

I think mistakes were inescapable but there were a lot of students left in turmoil over the recent reissuing of the calculated grades. The least students deserved was a reliable issuing of the results on September 7th.

At the beginning of this pandemic, the Leaving Cert examinations were postponed. I understand that the Department of Education could not foresee this extraordinary time, but they could have delivered clarity to the students quicker.

This particular year group lost out on face to face communication with their teachers from March to May, meeting their peers every day in school and had to study remotely with very little experience of how online learning worked. I went through this, and I can tell you first hand that it wasn’t easy.

Students had to endure a lot of hardship this year, and as much as the government tried, the Department of Education needed to be on their A-game. They needed to ensure that the PolyMetrix system was legitimate and fair.

However, the system took Irish, English, Maths and the students’ worst two subjects into account, instead of Irish, English, Maths and the students’ best two subjects. This issue had an impact on a lot of students and could have been avoidable.

We could have had more direction and vision from Joe McHugh at the beginning, and the fact Norma Foley knew that there was an issue with the calculated grades nearly a week before the information was released is shocking.

The Leaving Cert students of 2020 deserved better. Maybe this will be a wake-up call to the Department of Education, to put time and effort into a continuous assessment-based Leaving Cert.

This whole scandal would have been avoided had the department already adopted a fairer Leaving Cert than the one that is currently in place.

Roisin Travers

Image Credit: Claire Young