Norma Foley: New college places will offset increased demand

Leaving Cert exams get underway on Wednesday as 84,500 applications made to CAO for college places
Norma Foley: New college places will offset increased demand

Norma Foley: 'It’s a very good day for the class of 2021 and I’d like to wish all of the students taking their exams the very best of luck tomorrow.' File picture: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

New college places to be created this year will be enough to offset the potential effect accredited grades and increased demand will have on this year’s race for courses.

That is according to Education Minister Norma Foley, speaking ahead of the Leaving Certificate exams getting underway tomorrow.

A record number of applications have been made to the Central Applications Office (CAO) this year.

As of May 1, it has received 84,500 applications, including Leaving Cert students, mature applicants, and students from overseas.

There is a possibility of grade inflation again this year under ‘accredited grades’.

On average, grades were up by 4.4% across the board due to calculated grades, leading to soaring cut-off points for many sought-after courses.

When asked if there was a concern that not every student would get a place this year due to the record numbers, Ms Foley said she believed any challenges would be met.

“We’re actually talking really of an increase of just 300 Leaving Cert students,” she said.

“There are other students and perhaps some of them may be older candidates or mature students — they will have different mechanisms to achieve their place in college.” 

Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris has been “very clear” there will be an additional 4,500 additional college places this year. This is in addition to the 2,225 college places created last year due to grade inflation, Ms Foley said.

“When the challenge was put down to meet the needs of the class of 2020, they were substantially met last year and I have every faith that they will be met again this year for the class of 2021.” 

Leaving Cert exams

Leaving Certificate exams begin tomorrow, running until the end of June.

The vast majority of students have opted to receive a mix of both ‘accredited grades’, which are being overseen by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), and sit at least one written exam.

Students are then set to receive their results on September 3.

Students will receive just one set of results that day; those who opted for both written exams and accredited grades will receive the higher of the two.

A further breakdown will be provided at a later date.

The first round of CAO offers will then issue on Tuesday, September 7.

When asked, Ms Foley could not provide a timeframe for appeals but said she had every confidence that the deadlines for college will be met.

The SEC advised September 3 as the day to issue results, to ensure that all the checks and balances will be in place, she added.

It is a remarkable achievement that students are being offered the choice of written exams, accredited grades, or both, Ms Foley said.

“Students wanted the choice,” she said. “The vast majority have taken the opportunity to avail of both. 

We are almost unique in the world facilitating students in that respect. There is a considerable burden being placed on the SEC to provide for those two processes.

Ms Foley also acknowledged the “enormous body of work” carried out by schools in facilitating accredited grades.

“It’s a very good day for the class of 2021 and I’d like to wish all of the students taking their exams the very best of luck tomorrow. 

“Equally so, I want to acknowledge that the last number of weeks have been very important weeks for all of the class of 2021, many of those who opted for just accredited grades.

“I’m very pleased that the majority of students have opted to take both accredited grades, and the Leaving Cert exams," Ms Foley added.

"It's been a remarkably challenging year for them but they have shown remarkable resilience, goodwill, and good humour.”

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