Labour demands independent inquiry into Leaving Cert amid grading system errors

Labour demands independent inquiry into Leaving Cert amid grading system errors

Labour's education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin described the recent review of the grading system as a 'whitewashing exercise'. Picture:

The Labour Party is seeking an independent non-statutory inquiry into Leaving Cert 2020 after more errors in the grading system were revealed. 

A review by external contractor Educational Testing Services (ETS), published at the weekend, discovered further issues within the code used by the department to standardise results.

Each of these issues has since been resolved, according to Norma Foley, the Minister for Education, and department officials.

The department confirmed that due to errors in the system, 6,100 students — approximately one in 10 — received lower grades lower than they deserved.

System errors also saw some students also receive higher grades than they should have, but the department has not released these figures.

Students who received a higher grade will not have this taken away from them, according to Ms Foley.

Ms Foley again apologised to students for the “exceptionally difficult year” they faced. “And I’m sorry this last week delivered more uncertainty to you,” she said.

Labour's education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said that many questions remain unanswered.

“The review into the Leaving Cert calculated grading process carried out by US company Education Training Services commissioned by Minister Foley is a whitewashing exercise that will not give an adequate examination of the processes, or provide the necessary information on who knew what, when decisions were made, and why mistakes were not found," he said.

“It is incumbent upon the minister and the department to put in place the necessary measures to ensure that this never happens again. For that to occur, it is essential that an inquiry is established, independent of Government, headed by a retired judge or senior counsel, with a wide remit, and a deadline to report before the end of the year."

Following the discovery of two errors in the code used to standardise Leaving Cert students’ calculated grades, the US-based ETS was contracted to examine the corrections made by the department and Polymetrika, the Canadian company who implemented the code.

It found the original two coding errors had been corrected by the department and Polymetrika.

However, ETS also found one new error that affected students who did not sit all three core subjects at Junior Cycle. This would mainly apply to students with special educational needs.

All three of these errors are contained in the same section of coding, and all had an impact on students’ scores.

They have since been resolved and the code is operating correctly, according to the department.

A further discrepancy was also discovered, although it did not make any significant difference to students’ scores.

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