The effects of new Leaving Certificate grades and college entry points will be assessed before further reforms are undertaken, one of the key figures behind the changes has assured students and parents, writes Niall Murray.
Professor Philip Nolan, president of Maynooth University, said he does not expect any major changes in CAO points on large numbers of the 1,300 courses due to be filled through the system. He has chaired the universities group that helped designed and implement the new CAO points, part of a wider process to ease pressures associated with the transition from second-level to higher education.
“There’s an ongoing process of monitoring and reviewing to ensure any changes we’re moving to, or have made, are going in the right direction,” Prof Nolan said. “The important thing is that we ensure this has gone well before we start discussing any other enhancements to the system. We will be much clearer on that when the next few weeks have passed,” he said.
Although the points for each new Leaving Certificate grade no longer end on a 5 or a 10, they are very close to those awarded previously for grades for similar exam marks. The use of points ending in different numbers is intended to avoid large numbers of students being bunched on the same score with their best six subjects, and colleges having to use more random selection to decide who gets the final places on some courses.
“We don’t expect the new system to create any significant shift in CAO points. The points change between 5 and 15 in one direction or another for hundreds of courses every year, and there’s nothing to suggest anything bigger than that for most courses again this year,” Prof Nolan said.
“But even though the system has been very carefully designed, the strong advice this year in particular more than in others, is not to try predicting what the points for a course might be, based on last year’s,” he said.
With the same factors of demand, the number of places, and the CAO points of applicants determining the cut-off for all courses, Prof Nolan said it is best to make no assumptions until offers are issued to successful students from next Monday.
The widened grade bands are intended to reduce the focus on Leaving Certificate exam techniques to gain advantage in the points system, said to be emphasised at the expense of proper learning and understanding of subjects.
Prof Nolan said there is confidence that the changes will relieve pressure on students over time.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.