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We are living through unprecedented times due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. A decision has been made to postpone the Leaving Certificate and to offer students a system of Calculated Grades.

You can read an FAQ about the decisions taken here.

We are naturally worried about the risk to our physical health and that of our loved ones. The public health measures that have been put in place in Ireland as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to stop the spread of the virus, have resulted in additional challenges that may impact on our wellbeing.

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People have an inbuilt capacity to adapt. This is what is at the heart of resilience. There are steps that we can take to support our wellbeing during this time.

The links below can take you to specific information about the Leaving Certificate and wellbeing resources and supports that are available to support you at this time.

For information about the Leaving Certificate 2020 and clarity on the decisions made about the 2020 examinations see:

Leaving Certificate 2020: Information and Resources

For steps that you can take to support your wellbeing during this time see:

Wellbeing Information and Resources

1. What has been announced and why?

The 2020 Leaving Certificate written examinations previously scheduled to start on 29 July have been postponed. Students will now be offered Calculated Grades. They will also have the opportunity to sit the exams at a later stage when it is safer to do so.

After detailed consideration, it is the Department’s firm assessment that running the exams poses too great a risk to students, their families and those involved in running them.

The logistics of holding the exams, with all the precautions that would have to be put in place to prevent the risk of further infection, would mean that they would not be held under normal conditions.

2. Is there going to be a Leaving Certificate 2020?

Yes. All students will be given the option to receive a State Certificate of Calculated Grades in each subject. It will have the same status as Leaving Certificates awarded to students in previous years.

Students will also have the opportunity to sit the conventional Leaving Certificate examination if they wish at the earliest safe and practical time.

3. Why were the exams not moved online or changed to allow people to sit shorter papers?

Many different scenarios have been considered over a number of weeks, each with their flaws and faults.

There is no perfect solution to this unprecedented challenge.

Online exams;; shortened papers; fewer examinations – none of these options would have been as fair an assessment as the Calculated Grades model. They would also have been markedly different from previous Leaving Certificate examinations and they would not be what students had been working towards, or are familiar with.

Changes like those would have called into question the validity of the state examinations this year.

4. How will the system of Calculated Grades work?

Calculated Grades will be generated using a systematic statistical model. It will combine estimates of a student’s expected performance with the school’s statistical profiles of achievement in a subject and level, in line with national performance standards over time.

The first source of data will be provided by the subject teacher. It will then be aligned in the school, with teachers consulting on the results before the principal reviews the process applied to assure the fair treatment of students. The school then sends the data to the Department of Education and Skills.

A more detailed document A Guide to Calculated Grades for Leaving Certificate students 2020 will explain further how the system will work.

There will be strong oversight and control and a number of inherent quality assurance measures to ensure students receive as fair a result as possible.

5. What information will schools be asked to provide for each student?

Teachers will be asked to provide an estimated percentage mark for each student for each subject. Students will also be put in a rank order in their class.

Teachers are being asked to use draw on existing records and available evidence, to provide a fair, reasonable and carefully considered judgement of the most likely percentage mark that each student would have achieved if they had sat their examinations and completed coursework under normal conditions.

Teachers will NOT be simply passing on results from mock examinations or other tests.

Schools will then align this data before it is passed on to the Department of Education and Skills.

6. What evidence will teachers use to support their judgements?

Teachers will use a number of records of a student’s performance and progress; for example, classwork and homework; class assessments; examinations in school, at Christmas or summer, mock exams and also coursework.

A guidance document will be available for teachers.

7. Can I appeal the outcome?

Yes. The appeal will involve checks on school-entered data, correct transfer of that data to the Department, and a review that it was correctly received and processed by the Department. If a student remains dissatisfied at the end of this process they can seek verification of the Department’s processes by independent appeal scrutineers.

Under the Calculated Grades system, the percentage mark provided by the teacher cannot be reviewed.

All students will retain the option to sit a Leaving Certificate examination at a later stage when it is safe and practicable to do so.

8. Will students be able to see a record of the percentage mark that the school has given?

Yes. Students will have access to the school-based data in the event that they appeal.

In the detailed guidance that we are providing to schools and teachers we will be making it very clear that schools should not disclose the estimated marks or rank orders to students or to their parents/guardians.

9. Will teachers be using Junior Cycle results?

No. Junior Cycle results are not being used at an individual student level. They are only being used at a group level as part of the process of standardising across schools.

10. What if there is a conflict of interest, e.g. a teacher who teaches a relative or a friend’s son or daughter?

If a teacher has a real or perceived conflict of interest with a student in their class they must declare this to school principal.

There will be additional oversight by a nominated teacher and a deputy principal in such cases.

11. What actually happens in the statistical standardisation process?

After the estimated percentage marks are received from all schools, the Department will analyse them and carry out a process of standardisation.

We will compare the school’s profile of achievement at Leaving Certificate over the past three years to the national standards, to build up a picture of school performance. We will also review the performance of this year’s group of students against their overall performance at Junior Cycle.

This then allows us to check whether the estimated percentage marks in each subject from the school are reasonable, in light of performance in that subject in recent years. Therefore, the alignment of marks upwards or downwards will be based on more than one single piece of information.

12. How will the system ensure that student’s individual achievements are fairly rewarded?

The calculated grade system depends on the differences between students being accurately reflected in the school-based data. For example, if there is a student in a class group who performs better than the other students in the class group then this difference should be reflected in the estimated percentage marks assigned by the school.

However, we will also carry out other checks to identify any cases where there might be something unusual about an individual’s estimated mark. .We will follow up on these cases to check whether there is a good reason and give the school a chance to change the estimated mark if necessary.

13. Will marks or rank order change in the standardisation process?

We expect that some estimated marks may change, to at least some degree. Although some will change more than others depending on the quality of the data we receive from schools.

The ranking ordering of students by the school in their class grouping will be retained in the process, so students will keep their position relative to each other.

After this standardisation and all follow-on checks have been completed, the estimated mark supplied by the school is transformed into calculated mark. We then use this to generate a calculated grade.

14. How can you ensure that this system is fair, especially with the concerns about predicted grades?

The approach being adopted for the 2020 Leaving Certificate is not ‘predicted grades’.

It is a statistically-based calculated grades model. It has been developed in a way that will offer a fair and safe option to all students, to receive an assessment of their post-primary education despite the prevailing health crisis.

While it is true that there is no tradition of teachers assessing their students for the Leaving Certificate examination, the reality is that teachers have been applying their professional judgment to assessing students’ performance throughout their schooling, including during the two-year Senior Cycle programme.

International research has shown that it is possible to build in safeguards to maximise the accuracy of teachers’ judgements regarding student achievement and to minimise any risk of bias. It is also possible to construct mechanisms for national standardisation, as is being done in a number of countries. There is also research that tells us that teachers are known to be very good at rank ordering students and at making judgements in high stakes situations.

To safeguard fairness and integrity in this process at school level, teachers will receive detailed guidance which will enable them to apply their professional judgement to the available evidence of student performance.

School principals will have a critical oversight role and will be required to ensure fairness amongst candidates at school level and to approve the expected performance data.

15. What about students with reasonable accommodations? How will this be taken into account?

Where any reasonable accommodation has been approved by the SEC for any student, such as a reader or scribe, schools will be asked to base their estimate of the student’s likely performance on the assumption that this accommodation would have been available.

16. What about students who don’t attend or who are taking extra subjects outside school?

While these scenarios are the exception rather than the rule every effort will be made to calculate a grade, provided there is sufficient evidence available.

In the case of students taking a subject outside school, the guidance provides details of how schools should proceed if school management authorities are confident that there is sufficient evidence of the student’s achievement to make an objective judgement.

For students in receipt of home tuition with an association to the school, the guidance will provide information for school authorities to engage with the home tutor in arriving at a decision. Whether a valid estimate of performance can be provided will depend on whether the home tutor is a registered teacher and where the school is satisfied with the evidence used to support the judgment.

17. Can I appeal the Calculated Grades?

Yes. Due to the nature of the model, the professional judgment of the teacher or the school will not form part of the appeals process.

Students unhappy with the calculated grade they receive will have access to a three-stage appeals process.

Stage 1: Checks will be undertaken to ensure that the process was completed correctly by the school and that the intended information was recorded correctly by the school and that the information was transferred correctly into the data collection system. There will also be a review to ensure that the review that the data was correctly received and processed in the calculated grade model.

Stage 2: Students can then seek a review by Independent Appeal Scrutineers.

Stage 3: Following this review, there will also be an opportunity to sit the written examinations later in the year when it is safe and practicable to do so.

In addition, there will be oversight by an independent international expert unconnected with the design of the calculated grades model to provide overall validation on the model, including the operation of the appeals system.

18. What if I apply to sit the exams, but then am unable to do so. Will I get a second chance at sitting them?

Unfortunately it is intended that there will be one sitting of the 2020 Leaving Certificate Examination for the 2020 examinations.

19. When will the grades be issued?

The plan is that calculated grades will be provided to candidates as close as possible to the normal results day.

20. How will the calculated grades approach work for the Leaving cert Applied (LCA)?

A broadly similar process will apply as applies to the LC established for the outstanding LCA assessments. Given the modular nature of the LCA the substantial amount of assessment that has already been taken and credited to the candidate, will stand and be combined with the calculated grades for the outstanding assessments.

21. Will the grades be the same as in other years?

Yes. Students will receive a provisional statement of results with grades in the same format as every other year.

Subsequently students will receive a formal final certificate confirming the grades.

22. What about the CAO process – how will it be affected by this change?

Students’ calculated grades will be transferred directly to the CAO, in the same way that examination results usually are. The CAO timelines will run as close as possible to normal to allow for students to take up offers and to transition to third level, further education or work etc.

23. Does the same apply for people looking to study in the UK or Europe?

The Department has been in contact with counterparts in the UK and across the EU to explain the position regarding the Leaving Certificate. Other countries are being asked for as much flexibility as possible for our students. These contacts will continue over the coming weeks. This is also a common challenge in the UK and across the EU.

24. When will third level courses start?

While we can’t be specific about that yet, it will be late September or early October. Third level institutions are in constant contact with the Department on a range of issues in relation to enrolments and courses for the 2020/2021 academic year.

25. When will the results of the appeals issue? Will it be possible to start college this year using the appeal results?

Work is ongoing with the higher education sector to integrate the timing of the first stage of the appeals process with the start date for college entry.

Students who receive an upgraded CAO place following Stage 1 of the appeals process may be able to take up their place in the 2020/2021 academic year.

Students who are successful at the Independent Appeal Scrutineer stage, and who receive an improved CAO offer at that stage, will receive a deferred offer to start their course in the 2021/22 academic year.

Students who opt to sit the Leaving Certificate examinations later in the year and who receive an improved CAO offer on foot of these results will also receive a deferred college offer to start their course in the 2021/22 academic year. If a candidate who has started first year of a course becomes entitled to a higher CAO offer and chooses to accept same in the following academic year, attendance for the first year on the new course would remain eligible for free fees and SUSI funding as appropriate.

26. Can I mix my 2020 exam grades and Calculated Grades in different subjects to get points for access to higher education?

Yes. In these exceptional circumstances, all of the results issued on foot of the examinations this year, calculated grades; appeals and the later written examination will be considered the results of the 2020 Leaving Certificate.

27. What are the detailed arrangements for the Leaving Certificate exams to be held later this year?

The SEC will set about putting the detailed arrangements for these examinations in place, guided of course by health advice.

28. What about the Leaving Certificate fee?

Where students opt to sit the conventional Leaving Certificate examination later in the year the examination fee will be waived. Anyone who has paid already will be refunded.


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