Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Education and Skills

State Examinations

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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247. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure that the system for calculating grades in the leaving certificate is anonymised in the interests of fairness for both teachers and pupils; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6231/20]

Photo of Noel GrealishNoel Grealish (Galway West, Independent)
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250. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the effect the school profiling element will have on a student's grade; the way in which fairness will be achieved in the national standardisation process in situations in which a student is attending a lower ranking school but may be a high achiever and would have performed well in a written examination but may have their results downgraded as part of the national standardisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6238/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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262. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review his decision to introduce a school profile element to the calculated grade process (details supplied). [6331/20]

Photo of Donnchadh Ó LaoghaireDonnchadh Ó Laoghaire (Cork South Central, Sinn Fein)
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281. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the safeguards which will be put in place to minimise the impact of school profiling; and if it is the case that school results will be adjusted upwards or downwards depending on said profile. [6398/20]

Photo of Donnchadh Ó LaoghaireDonnchadh Ó Laoghaire (Cork South Central, Sinn Fein)
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285. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reconsider the need for school profiling in view of the fact that it has a potentially harmful effect on schools with a lower profile of results and other safeguards are in place and can be put in place. [6402/20]

Malcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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302. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if students from more disadvantaged areas and schools with poorer academic records will not be unduly punished on the basis of the performance of those that came before them (details supplied). [6456/20]

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Social Democrats)
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339. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if the provision to adjust leaving certificate grades in line with the schools past performance (details supplied) will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6635/20]

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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404. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the measures that will be taken to ensure that students are not unfairly awarded marked down grades due to their school expected data with respect to the arrangements for predictive grades to replace the leaving certificate exams; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6999/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 247, 250, 262, 281, 285, 302, 339 and 404 together.

Calculated Grades are decided based on data on each candidate provided by schools. The calculated grades system will combine estimates of a student’s expected performance in a subject and level, with information about how students in the school have fared in this subject in recent years in line with national performance standards over time. The National standardisation process does not favour any type of student or school.

When the estimated marks from a school are standardised, if a candidate is a particularly strong candidate in a class – irrespective of the school attended – then that student will still emerge as a particularly strong candidate, and the calculated grade will be as close to what would have achieved in the examinations as it is possible to calculate.

Whether or not the marks in any subject from a school move up or down during National standardisation depends on the accuracy with which teachers and schools have made their estimates, not on the kind of school a student is attending. For example, it is possible that the estimated marks in one subject from a school will need to be moved up and the marks in another subject from the same school will need to be moved down.

The most important information about each student is the marks and ranking that the school provides to the Department. National standardisation uses two further sources of information to adjust a school’s estimated marks if there is evidence that a school has been too harsh or too lenient in a given subject. The way these two sources of information are used is interconnected.

The first of the two further sources of information for the National standardisation process is the Junior Cycle/Certificate actual marks attained by the Leaving Certificate class of 2020 taking a particular subject in the given school, and the second is about the general pattern of results in the subject from Leaving Certificate classes in that school over a number of years.

This information will all be assembled and will be used to predict the level of achievement that this year’s Leaving Certificate group would have been expected to reach in that subject if they had sat the Leaving Certificate examination in the normal way. This means that if a given class is a particularly “strong class”, the expected level of achievement of that class would reflect that fact and so the National standardisation process will take full account of it. If the school’s estimated marks reflect this properly, then there will not be a need to move them up or down.

Research and statistics allow my Department to understand the extent to which groups of students in a school have results that are similar from one year to the next. These sources also allow my Department to take account of the fact that individuals within those groups can have levels of achievement that can vary quite a lot.

The information about each individual and their peers is combined with the information about the school’s previous results and previous groups to allow checks that the marks and rankings for each subject in a school and all other schools are reasonable. This means that all candidates across the country are treated fairly.

Most importantly, I can confirm that the statistical process being applied will not impose any predetermined score on any individual in a class or school.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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248. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure that the appeals process for calculated grades for leaving certificate students will be transparent and that details of the way in which the determination is reached is made available to the pupil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6232/20]

Violet Wynne (Clare, Sinn Fein)
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359. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if clarity will be provided regarding the leaving certificate exams appeal process; the date from which students can appeal their exam results; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6725/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 248 and 359 together.

As part of the calculated grades process where a student is not satisfied with their calculated grade it can be appealed to my Department. The appeal system is set out in the information available on my Department’s website. The appeals mechanism will ensure that each step in the process leading to the generation of a calculated grade has been followed correctly and that all data has been used and transferred correctly.

The appeals process will not examine the initial estimated mark that was decided by the subject teacher. The teacher is the best placed person to examine the work of the student and give a balanced professional judgement, based on evidence, about the expected achievement of the student.

The appeal process will include a three-stage process involving:

- Stage 1: Checks will be undertaken to ensure that the data was recorded correctly by the school and that it was transferred correctly into the data collection system.

- Stage 2: There will also be a review to ensure that the data was correctly received and processed in the calculated grade model.

- Stage 3: Students unhappy with the outcome of this process can seek a review by Independent Appeal Scrutineers.

If students are unhappy with the outcome of this review, there will be an opportunity to sit the examinations at a later stage when it is safe and practicable to do so.

In addition, the Department will arrange for an independent expert unconnected with the design of the calculated grades model to provide overall validation on the model, including the operation of the appeals system.

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