Minister for Education Norma Foley has said that adjustments will be made to the 2023 leaving certificate examinations to ensure that “there will be no cliff edge” for next year’s grades, following years of inflated grades.
This announcement follows today’s release of leaving certificate results which were adjusted upwards to be in line with 2021 results.
Last year’s grades were particularly high as students could receive accredited grades and sit exams and were awarded whichever grade was higher. Accredited grades were introduced as a result of the pandemic and involved teachers predicting their students’ grades before being standardised by the State Examinations Commission (SEC).
Responding to a question on RTÉ Radio One regarding whether next year’s grades will continue to be adjusted upwards, Foley said: “The State Examinations Commission will review the situation, we’ll see where we’re at and decisions will be made in terms of what will be achieved in 2023 … what I can say at this point is that there will be no cliff edge in that regard.”
Foley also confirmed that changes similar to those made to this year’s leaving certificate papers will continue to be made for the 2023 cohort.
She said: “There will be greater choice on the papers for the students and that will give them greater freedom, greater flexibility and I would suggest greater confidence, if they take the paper.”
This decision was made following “extensive consultation” with “parents, students, managerial bodies [and] teaching unions”, she added.
The Minister for Education also spoke in relation to the delay in the release of leaving certificate results and said this was a result of holding an additional set of exams as a COVID-19 contingency measure.
“The most important thing is that the State Examinations Commission are in a position to stand over the status of the exams [and] the calibre of the exams”, she said.
“They needed that additional time this year given the unique circumstances of having two full sittings of the exam.”
In a press release, Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU) president Caitlyn-Faye Maniti praised the announcement. “The ISSU welcomes the announcement from Minister Foley, regarding adjustments to the 2023 State Examinations”, she said.
“We are glad that this announcement was released promptly, delivering clarity for the Class of 2023.”
“These students can now walk into school on Monday morning with some certainty of how their exam will be run”, she added.
In a statement to The University Times, Vice-Provost Orla Sheils said: “We are delighted for all the students who received results today and look forward to welcoming many of them to Trinity. However, I am concerned about the inequity brought about by grade inflation. A lottery system for high-points courses is very unfair. We need to get back to a fairer competition. As the economist Fred Hirsch once said: ‘If everyone stands on tiptoe, no one sees better.'”
On a similar note, in an interview with the Irish Times, President of the University of Galway Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh called for a return to normal leaving certificate grades.
He said that inflated grades have made it harder to distinguish between “good and really good” students, and it is important that leaving certificate results are reliable as “there are many employers, particularly in professional contexts, who use the leaving cert, as well as university results, as a benchmark for interviews. It was seen as a strong indicator of academic performance”.