Minster Foley apologises as 6,500 students will have at least one Leaving Cert mark upgraded after errors discovered

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Independent.ie reporters will be bringing you the latest updates on our liveblog.

16.58


The opposition has drafted a letter to the Ceann Comhairle asking for the Minister to come before the Dáil tonight.

“I did suggest I would come before the Dail I would be very happy to give the fullest of information available to me.”

She says that this will be in the next couple of days.

16.53

We’re not in a position to give the full data to you, says the Minister.

She adds that this will come in the coming days.

The effect on the grade inflation overall will not be that broad.

16.50

WATCH: Minister apologises as 6,500 students will have at least one Leaving Cert mark downgraded


16.46

No students grades will be lowered as a result of this error, confirms an official from the State Examinations Commission.

Students who already have their places in the CAO system, hold that place. If they get a better offer, they may take it if there is an available place or they may defer it.

16.39

The “original value” of the contract with the Canadian company was €75,000.

An official from the Department of Education said that “the expenditure to date” is €160,000.

16.37

Minister Foley says that “there are absolutely” penalties in relation to the Canadian company finding errors in the code.

Error was identified by the contractor on Tuesday night last week after checks were run on the code.

16.35

Taoiseach was informed on Wednesday afternoon of the errors.

“This was our intention and this was planned,” says the Minister of the news of the errors being made breaking today.

16.33

New CAO offers will be made for current academic year “ where at all possible”, Minister Foley said.

16.29

A text message has been sent to students, says the Education Minister.

She says she is aware that this has been a “phenomenally difficult” year for students”.

Three separate checks now underway and results expected “in coming days “ and “will give us certainty”.

16.24

The errors were made in the link to the school’s Junior Cert results.

The calculation was supposed to have included Irish, English and Maths and students’ two best subjects.

What happened was that the Irish, English and Maths results were linked to students ’ two worst subjects.

A second error was discovered that compounded that.

The look back at the Junior Cert results was not suppose dot include Civic Social and Personal Education (CSPE), but it was include in the calculations.

16.20

Minister Foley apologises for ‘distress’ errors will cause

The information is available on gov.ie Leaving Certificate

A dedicate helpline has been set up: 01 8892199 which will be open for the coming week.

“This changes things for students.

“It will be distressing for students.

“On behalf of Dept of Education and skills, I want to apologise sincerely for the situation we and in and the distress it will case,” said the Minister.

16.16

7,200 grades affected – Minister

Minister Foley:

“These are errors that should not have occurred

“However the error will not disadvantage any student

“On Wednesday last, the sec gen of dept of education told me a mistake was spotted by a Canadian company Polymetrika international.

“We knew one line out of 50,000 lines of code had a mistake in it. we knew that mistake would impact on the results of some students

“It was important to find out as much a possible about the mistake before making an announcement.”

A ‘detailed analysis’ began, she said.

“6,500 students received a grade lower than they out to have received

“Checks indicate error has affected 7,200 grades.

16.12

Deputy O’Riordain said that this crisis is not a “resigning matter” for the Minister.

“Students are again getting a drip feed of information.

“We got a 20 minute briefing. It’s very hard to work with a department and a Minister that has no interest in working with us.”

16.09

Labour education spokesperson Aodhan O’Riordain speaking on RTÉ News said that the minister briefed education spokespeople at 3.30pm this afternoon.

“She outlined the errors, the number of students affected,” he said.

“She said that the process is still in place.

“We are deeply deeply frustrated. We have tried to work with government from the start with the Leaving Cert.”

16.00

Main error in source coding, additional Third Level places will be created if necessary – Taoiseach

Reports Senan Molony, Political Correspondent

There will be additional places If necessary for students “who may qualify for third level courses,” the Taoiseach told the Dail.

It remained to be worked out, he said.

The key error appears to be in the coding of the calculated grades, he told the Dáil. The coding had been provided by an external consultant firm, and had then examined by the Department of Education, he said.

There had also been a parallel process of examination, he said, but a company had now been brought in from the United States to examine the situation and carry out an audit.

The second error was discovered by the Department itself, the Taoiseach said, without giving details. Further checks had shown no further errors in the coding, he said.

The external consultants now engaged was ETS, Education Testing Service, which was a US non-profit organisation which specialised in educational measurement, he said.

The correct model was now being used to “re-run” the grades, he said. “I am not happy that it happened at all.”

The Minister very much regretted what had happened and her thoughts were with the students, he said.

“The ramifications across the country for this are humongous,” Labour leader Alan Kelly told the Dáil.

Students had been “put through hell” and this extraordinary development “puts the cherry on top.”

“How in the name of God did this happen,” he asked.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said it was “the icing in the cake” in terms of the overall “cock-up” of the exams. “I am very concerned that you had this information from last week, that it was clearly kept from members of the Opposition. The Minister for Education didn’t brief anyone.

“To say that this is a mess is very much an understatement.”
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said it was a “gigantic, inexplicable cock-up” which could have very severe implications for those already in third level courses.

Outsourcing may have played a role, he said, which reflected on Ireland having the lowest level of investment in Education in the Western world,” he said.

Mr Kelly said: “It’s extraordinary, these students have gone through absolute hell, and this has d put the cherry on top

“We can’t penalise students who have already been offered places.” There were situations with students repeating their Leaving who may be going to college, “with parents paying for accommodation which they may never need now or use.”

They could be going to other colleges or third level institutions as a result of this development, he said. “They may no longer be in the courses based on results. The ramifications for this across the country are humongous.

“This is hitting into every single family network across the country.”
The Taosieach said outside expertise had brought in for coding of the calculated grades. “It was examined both internally by the Department and in a parallel process.

“The key error appears to have been in the coding. That has given rise to this. When the department first became aware of this, it was important to ascertain what is involved so that as many questions as possible can be answered to reassure students and do the very best for them.”
He added: “Mechanisms and strict portals will be in place that will enable individual students to get access to their new grades.

“The nuts and bolts of the rectification of this, and the presenting of this to students is the Department and the minister’s priority.”

A lot of work would have to be done with universities and third level institutions and the CAO body to ensure no students were disadvantaged, he said.

“It’s important that the full implications of the error are ascertained. An external independent audit was introduced, and a company from United States has been brought in to work through the entire system again, to make sure. It has to be done, and I think it’s important that that be done.”

The whole situation was “very regrettable,” he said. “Believe me, it’s not something anybody wanted to hear about, not least about the students themselves. And I know that this will cause additional alarm and worry.

“The objective now is to reassure students in terms of the places that they already have, and if necessary, creating additional places for students who may not qualify.

“All of that has to be still worked out.”

15.57

Around 6,300 students will have at least one Leaving Cert mark upgraded after errors discovered

Hugh O’Connell reports

AROUND 6,300 students will have at least one of their Leaving Certificate marks upgraded as a result of errors discovered in the calculated grades system.

Opposition TDs have been told in a Department of Education briefing that affected students will receive an improved grade in their Leaving Certificate results, as a result of the error.

For the “vast bulk” of these students it will be simply a single grade higher in one subject. Students can only receive a higher offer or a higher result, officials told the meeting.

Education Minister Norma Foley told the meeting the new marks will be given to CAO and CAO will make a higher preference offer when it can be made. The Minister said that no student would lose their college place as a result of the issue.

“Where a higher preference offer can be made, it will be made,” she said.

Ms Foley said the maximum level of detail will be available in the coming days and she will make a full statement in the Dáil early next week or in the coming days.

Ms Foley told the briefing that she first became aware of the error last Wednesday when she was made aware of a coding error discovered by the company that made the code.

The meeting was told the error was in a single line of code and was unrelated to the decision to drop school-profiling in calculating the grades.

An external company from the US is now carrying out an audit of the system to finalise the full data.

15.49

Sinn Féin calls on Norma Foley to make Dáil statement

The Sinn Féin spokesperson for education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has called on Education Minister Norma Foley to make a statement in the Dáil on errors which have been spotted in the calculated grades system.

He also said that she should take questions from TDs following her statement.

“The Minister for Education needs to come before the Dáil urgently, make a statement and answer the many serious questions that now arise.

“According to the Taoiseach, the government knew about these errors last week. The second round of CAO offers went out last Wednesday. Did the government allow the second round offers to proceed knowing that these problems existed?” he asked.

He said that 800 and 900 students may have lost out of their college place due to the errors.

“Thousands of students will be wondering how this could affect their grades and their future.

“It has been reported that 10pc of students – 6,000 – may be affected and that between 800 and 900 students may have lost out on a college place due to these errors. What does this mean for them? Will they now be able to access those places?

“What does this mean for the prospect of further legal challenges?”

He said that a press conference at 4pm “simply won’t cut it”.

“Right now, there are more questions than answers. A statement from the Minister to the media simply won’t cut it.

“Minister Foley needs to bring clarity and certainty for students who are experiencing a great deal of stress and confusion today. She needs to tell students and their families how she will fix this. That needs to start by taking questions in the Dáil,” he added.

15.42

Heartbroken mother of twins says the family couldn’t ‘celebrate for Conor because Aaron was heartbroken’

Reports Ciara O’Loughlin

Mother Denise is hoping that her child is one of the 6,000 students who was incorrectly downgraded.

Speaking to Joe Duffy on RTÉ Radio One’s Liveline, the mother explained how one of her children was downgraded by the Department of Education and didn’t get offered his dream course- medicine.

Denise has identical twins – Conor and Aaron (18). Both were high achievers and hoped to receive 625 points to study medicine, but only one of them received it.

“They both got 10 A’s in the Junior Cert. So, all along we expected the same in the Leaving Cert,” she said.

“Both were awarded 625 points by their teachers but Aaron was then downgraded.

“He got 601, which is outstanding…but he wanted to do medicine. They both wanted to do medicine, but only Conor has gotten it.

“He’s decided to wait for next year because he wants to do medicine and nothing else will do.

“We couldn’t celebrate for Conor because Aaron was heartbroken.”

15.35

Student anguish on Liveline – ‘I want my points back’

Reports Ciara O’Loughlin

Leaving Cert students are speaking out after it was announced that 6,000 students were wrongly downgraded in what is being attributed as a coding error.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Liveline, Institute of Education student Amy Craven believes she could be one of the students affected as she received 443 points, however, her teachers awarded her 44 points higher than this.

“I wrote a letter to Norma Foley when I found out to get some sort of explanation to why this happened,” she said.

“We’ve no idea why we got downgraded, no one does. I’m now doing my sixth choice out of ten.

“I want my points back. I’m willing to reapply to the CAO next year.

“I don’t understand how they can come out and say this now, at the start they said no school was subject to bias. It’s a bit late to say it now.”

Alan Harte is repeat Leaving Cert student who decided to re-sit exams this year in order to obtain better grades to get into the Army Cadets.

The student attended school up to November of 2019, however, his mother had a mini-stroke so he had to study at home while looking after her. Due to being downgraded, he didn’t receive the grades to get into the Army Cadets, however, he said he is unaware if this is because of the grades his teachers gave him or by the Department of Education algorithm.

In order to get into the Army Cadets three H5’s and basic passes in English, Irish, Maths and a foreign language is needed but, unfortunately, Alan did not obtain this.

“Last year I got 308 points and this year I’m actually not aiming for points I’m aiming for grades for a cadetship with the army,” he said.

“Last year I got a H5 in Geography and this year I got a H8, which is no marks. I don’t know what to do now.”

15.30

Errors have been discovered with the Leaving Certificate calculated grades system with Minister for Education Norma Foley to make a significant announcement at around 4pm on Wednesday afternoon, Independent.ie has learned.

Government sources say an emergency helpline is being set up and Minister Foley will make an announcement at the Department of Education with an official from the State Exams Commission.

The exact numbers of those impacted may not become clear until towards the end of the week.

The students involved will be treated as if they have succeeded in an appeal and where where an error has pointed to a student receiving a higher grade than warranted, there will be no negative impact.

This may mean that extra third-level places will need to be found for these students if there is a material difference to their points total as a result of their adjusted grades.

Online Editors

Source: Irish News