A number of significant changes have been made to the Leaving Certificate appeals process following a recent landmark High Court case taken by student Rebecca Carter.
The Wexford student successfully sued the State Examinations Commission (SEC) challenging its decision not to re-check her points score in time to allow her to obtain a place at UCD.
The changes to the process will be implemented from next year so that students who appeal the results of the Leaving Certificate will be informed by the SEC of the outcome of their appeals much earlier than has previously been possible.
In cases where students have applied for a course via the CAO, and where their appeal result means they could get a higher course preference, they will now be able to begin that course in the current academic year, rather than have their offer deferred by a year.
The institutions will also have better supports in place for those appeal students who begin their course shortly after first year has begun to ensure that they are not at a disadvantage.
The higher education institutions have said that no first year undergraduate classes will begin earlier than the second week of September next year.
In another major change next year, Leaving Cert appeals results will be released to students in the week beginning September 16, a full three weeks earlier than the normal timeframe.
This revision of the appeals process will include a combination of earlier releases of provisional results of the Leaving Cert and of CAO Round 1 offers to students. This means that the process which allows students to view their exam scripts before deciding to submit an appeal will be brought forward.
Appeals examiners will mark scripts on a full-time basis rather than only at evenings and weekends and the overall appeals logistics will be streamlined.
In 2019, provisional results of the Leaving Cert will be issued to students on Tuesday, August 13, while CAO Round 1 offers will be issued to students by Friday, August 16.
The Department of Education says that the exam marking system will move from being paper-based to online over the next three years.
The changes announced today follow on from the judgment in Rebecca Carter's High Court Judicial Review case last month.
Ms Carter had claimed that the timeframe for processing Leaving Cert appeals meant that, in the event of a successful appeal of her results which would give her a higher course preference, she would not be able to bein that course in the current academic year, but would instead be required to accept a deferred offer for the following year.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Humphreys stated that the current system is highly unfair to students and cannot be repeated. The judge also ordered the SEC to accelerate completion of the appeal process on behalf of Ms Carter.
Following this accelerated completion of the appeal process, Ms Carter was successful in her appeal and was offered a place in Veterinary Medicine in UCD which she took up last month.
The Department of Education and the SEC say they will be appealing certain Constitutional and legal issues raised by the judgment and findings relating to parts of the examinations system. They say those appeals will not affect Ms Carter.
The announcement was made today by Minister for Education Joe McHugh and Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor.
Speaking today, Minister McHugh said: “My Department has engaged extensively with the State Examinations Commission, the Irish Universities Association and the Technological Higher Education Association on this matter over the last number of weeks. Together we have been considering the outcome of the judgment and how best to help our students in the coming years”.
“The State Examinations Commission is making significant changes to its appeals process as part of this.
Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “To help support students who are appealing Leaving Certificate results, the IUA and THEA have agreed that no first year undergraduate academic classes will begin prior to the second week in September in 2019. This will minimise the class time lost by students who are offered a higher preference CAO offer.
“As well as this, higher education institutions will offer improved supports for students who begin, or change courses, after the start of first year orientation, including academic supports where needed. This will ensure that students are given the best opportunity in their course," she said.