Over 1,500 local Leaving Cert students amongst those to receive best grades ever

In a fitting conclusion to most unusual of academic years, the 60,000-plus Leaving Certificate students of 2020 today received the highest grades ever for exams they were prevented from taking.

Unable to sit their exams due to the pandemic, the 799 Cavan students and 726 Monaghan students were amongst those who received 'Calculated Grades', accessed through an online portal this morning.

Announcing the results today Minister for Education Norma Foley sent her congratulations and best wishes in a letter to the Leaving Certificate Class of 2020:

“This is a very different day from what we had anticipated for you, and from what you had planned and dreamed for yourselves. I do appreciate what an especially difficult time you have had over the past six months, and I want to commend you for the patience, courage and resilience you have shown in that time.

“The creation of the Calculated Grades system came about to ensure there would be a mechanism to enable the class of 2020 to progress to work or further and higher education on completion of your second level school experience.

“This has been a challenging time for students, their families and school communities. However, I do believe what has been created is the fairest possible solution given the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves as we journey together through the Covid-19 pandemic. Today, with confidence, you can look back with pride on all that you have achieved and look forward with courage to the next exciting phase of your lives.”

The overall number of students due to sit the examinations in 2020 was 60,419. Of those 57,569 students followed the Leaving Certificate (Established) programme, of which 13,470 (22.2%) followed the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme. A further 2,850 (4.7%) candidates followed the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme. Students are receiving results for the first time today in the new subjects of Computer Science and Physical Education.

It is recognised that for the Leaving Certificate class of 2020 the tradition of coming back to school to celebrate the results with teachers and classmates on the day that the results issue will not be the same as in previous years. Schools played a core role in nurturing and supporting students throughout their years in post-primary education and will be providing support to students in an appropriate way today and in the coming days. A Student Information Guide has also been produced to assist students in understanding their results, accessing their marks, making an appeal against a result and providing details of the later written examinations. This will be available on gov.ie/Leaving Certificate.

Background to the Calculated Grades Process

A Calculated Grade is a grade that can be provided to students following the combination of information provided by the school about a student’s expected performance in an examination and national data available in relation to the performance of students in examinations over a period of time. This approach has been adopted this year as a direct result of Covid-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations.

The focus of the Calculated Grades process has at all times been on the student and not on the system and the recent decision to remove the school-by-school historical data from the national standardisation process underpins this commitment, ensuring that the performance of this cohort of students is not constrained by how their school has historically performed at Leaving Certificate.

The system of Calculated Grades had at its heart at all time concern for this group of students who completed their second level education under the most unprecedented and difficult circumstances. Through the Calculated Grades process the Minister has sought to ensure that the grades students receive today are fair and comparable representations of their levels of achievement. The standardisation process has ensured that anybody using the certificate to make decisions about those holding the certificate can legitimately place equal value on the same grade in the same subject at the same level on the certificates of two different students, without regard to where they went to school.

The Minister has ensured the best possible outcomes for students by placing a high value on the estimates of performance coming from schools with a focus on aligning standards across schools, ensuring that the system was adjusted appropriately for any over or under-estimation coming through the school estimates. While the estimated marks have been subject to a process of adjustment to ensure fairness and comparability across schools, the national 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.

This process has been operated with rigour and subject to strong governance and oversight arrangements. Today, the Minister is publishing a number of governance and technical documents related to the process including the Discussion Paper of the Technical Working Group whose work informed the development of the approach; the Report of the National Standardisation Group; and the Letter of Opinion from the Independent Steering Committee.

Advice for Students

The wellbeing of the students who receive the Calculated Grades will be supported through a number of additional measures.

The Leaving Certificate student helpline, at 1800 265 165, which is provided by the National Parents Council post-primary will be available from 11.00 am on 7 September for students to reach a guidance counsellor with any queries that they may have. This helpline will operate until 16 September after the CAO first round offers and is staffed by qualified guidance counsellors. Further details can be found at https://www.npcpp.ie/leaving-cert-helpline