Sinn Féin spokespersons on Education and Higher Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire and Rose Conway Walsh, have criticised the government’s handling of the calculated grading model for the Leaving Certificate this year.
Speaking after the release of the teachers’ grades to students, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said: “Many students sacrificed an awful lot over the past two years to study for their Leaving Cert.
“We have seen reports this week of 70-hour study weeks, and the sacrificing of sports and extracurricular activities by students to ensure they got the best score possible and the best chance of accessing their desired third-level course.
“Government efforts to expand third-level access have been too little too late – the additional 2,000 places have done little to address the huge inflation in points for CAO this year.
“It is therefore understandable why so many students feel let down and aggrieved by the grades that they have received.
“When the Leaving Cert was cancelled, Sinn Féin expressed serious reservations regarding the calculated grades model.
“We argued for a different approach that would have focused on allowing as many students as possible to achieve their first-choice course at third-level, and university-based assessment in high competition courses. We communicated this in a detailed proposal to Minister Joe McHugh at the time.
“Since then, when it became apparent that the government were determined to stick to the calculated grades model, it became our priority to ensure maximum transparency, and to ensure that the risks associated with calculated grades were reduced.
“This is why we repeatedly called for the Minister to publish all the details of the model, and this is why we sought the removal of the school profiling element.”
Teachta Conway Walsh added: “We believe that the Minister must identify the number of students who missed out on a higher CAO choice due to downgrading of their teachers’ grading, and make a concerted final effort to create additional places in the courses they would have received had they received their teachers’ grades.
“We also believe that for those reapplying to Medicine for entry in 2021 that this year’s HPAT results should stand.
“Many students are frustrated at the limited nature of the appeal process and are pessimistic that it holds any opportunity for their situation to be addressed. The appeals mechanisms must be expanded.
“We are seeking a meeting with the Minister to explore any options which exist, and we will be raising it in the Dáil today.
“The hour is late, but the department cannot ignore students who feel that opportunities have been unfairly denied to them, including those who sat the Leaving Cert in previous years. Many students have valid concerns and these must be addressed.”