Leaving Cert transparency needed after Scotland downgrades 125k results using similar system

Just as with Irish Leaving Cert students, Scottish students also had their final exams cancelled for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and saw an alternative grading system introduced. 
Leaving Cert transparency needed after Scotland downgrades 125k results using similar system

It lemerged that schools from disadvantaged backgrounds were disproportionately affected by the standardisation process used by the SQA. File picture: PA

More transparency is needed around the design model that is being used to standardise thousands of Leaving Cert calculated grades here after Scotland saw almost 125,000 results downgraded through a similar system.

That is the call from opposition spokespeople here after it emerged the Scottish students had their predicted grades lowered by an algorithm.

It later emerged that schools from disadvantaged backgrounds were disproportionately affected by the standardisation process used by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). 

Just as with Irish Leaving Cert students, Scottish students also had their final exams cancelled for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and saw an alternative grading system introduced. 

This involved teachers giving students estimated marks, which were then standardised by the SQA. 

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Sinn Féín education spokesman, said it is concerning that the Scottish system has many similarities to the calculated grades system proposed here. 

"It is vital that we do not replicate its flaws," he said. 

“The issue is that we are in the dark as to what the standardisation model will be for our Leaving Certificate students this year. I have repeatedly asked Norma Foley, the Minister for Education to publish this. She has not done so," he said, adding that he urges her to do so. 

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Labour education spokesman, has warned we could face a similar situation here in a few weeks, unless there is a review of the calculated grades methodology. 

He said: "The Government needs to ensure that no student is adversely penalised because they come from a poorer background. In light of the chaos experienced by students in Scotland, I am calling on the Minister to compel her officials to remove any potential for school profiling from this year’s arrangements and to make sure students are assessed on merit and not by postcode."

In a statement, the Department of Education said it notes the decision made in respect of second-level examinations in Scotland. The Department and the Minister appreciate this may cause anxiety for students awaiting results. 

The statement said: "The Minister would like to reassure all students that the stated aim of the Calculated Grades system is that the results will be accurate, reliable and fair to all students." 

The calculated grades system was developed with students, parents, teacher unions, and school management bodies, and includes a national standardisation process, validation of the statistical model and quality assurance checks, the department said. 

"The statistical process in Ireland takes account of whether the group of students taking a subject in the school this year is academically stronger [or weaker] than in previous years.

"This means that the distribution of grades emerging from the school is not pre-ordained to be the same as it was in previous years." 

Work is ongoing to ensure all students are treated fairly, the statement said. 

In Scotland, downgrading saw the pass rate for students from the most deprived backgrounds reduced by more than 15%, compared to just less than 7% for wealthier students. Following a u-turn by the Scottish government, 75,000 students will now have their downgraded exam results overturned, and replaced with the original scores their teachers gave them.

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