The State’s exams appeal system is not fit for purpose, a High Court judge has warned after a student fulfilled her dream of winning a place in veterinary medicine following a legal challenge.
Rebecca Carter repeated her Leaving Cert and had received 554 points, just six short of the required number for veterinary medicine at UCD. The points required for the course had dropped to 555 in the second round offer which had left her only a point short.
The 18-year-old, from Ardcolm Drive, Rectory Hall, Castlebridge, Co Wexford, sued the State Examinations Commission challenging its decision not to re-check her points score in time to allow her to obtain a place at UCD.
Yesterday, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys told a smiling Ms Carter that had her points been correctly added up she would have achieved an extremely high mark that would easily have qualified her for a place at the UCD course.
Mr Justice Humphreys said the situation faced by Ms Carter had been highly unfair. He described the process engaged in by the commission, which did not deliver a result for one and a half months, as manifestly unfit for purpose.
He said the situation that had arisen in this case should not be repeated next year.
He said the delay in dealing with her request for a recount had caused her distress.
He noted that almost 1,700 examiners marked almost 390,000 papers in 54 days, and yet, it took another 40 days for 400 examiners to assess just over 9,000 appeals.
Judge Humphreys told Micheál P O’Higgins, counsel for Ms Carter, that he would direct the commission to carry out the necessary corrections to her exam paper by noon tomorrow and notify UCD two hours later of the result.
The judge said one important factor in reaching his decision was that had the exam paper been correctly marked Rebecca would have had a prima facie case in winning a place at UCD.
The Central Applications Office, which processes applications for undergraduate courses in colleges, would inform Ms Carter by 5pm tomorrow of its decision to award her a placement.
Conor Power, counsel for the commission, asked the court to consider a stay on its decision. But Mr Justice Humphreys said that to grant a stay would nullify his decision and allow Ms Carter no benefit from her successful legal challenge.
Following the decision, Ms Carter hugged her parents Anne Marie and Niall and said she was delighted with the outcome.
I’m just overwhelmed really and delighted for myself and I’m relieved for myself. I’m also delighted for all the other students in the coming years because they won’t have to go through what I have gone through. Luckily from now on, all the appeals will be finalised before the academic year starts.
She said she hoped she will be in lectures on Monday.
“I will probably be there before all the other students because I will be so eager.”
She said she repeated the Leaving Cert by herself so she studied at home all year.
“All the studying and all the hours that you put in and then when you see that there is a mistake and you are not to blame — it’s really disheartening. I went through the appeals process last year and to again go through the appeals process this year just would have been extremely hard.”
In a statement, the State Examinations Commission said it noted the significant judgement.
It said the implications and ramifications of this will be considered by the board of the SEC at an early date.
Last year, around 1,400 of the 5,600 students who appealed a Leaving Certificate result in one or more subjects got an upgrade when appeals were finalised by the SEC in the second week of October.
As a result, the points of more than 300 students were increased sufficiently to make them eligible for an offer of a college place. However, many colleges only offer applicants a deferred place the following year.