Written answers

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Department of Education and Skills

State Examinations

Photo of Pádraig O'SullivanPádraig O'Sullivan (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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120. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the meaning of teachers' estimated marks from each school being adjusted to bring them into line with the expected distribution for the school; if this means that the previous year's results of a school will have an input on 2020 results; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7164/20]

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail)
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133. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure the involvement of independent expert advice in the development of the model which will be used within his Department to adjust calculated grades; if such a consultation has already taken place, the nature of the consultation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7182/20]

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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213. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the person or body that designed the system outlined in the document A Guide to Calculated Grades for Leaving Certificate students 2020; and if alternatives were considered. [7737/20]

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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218. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the function of ranking students in the calculated grades system; the reason this is necessary; and if alternatives were or still can be considered. [7742/20]

Photo of Violet WynneViolet Wynne (Clare, Sinn Fein)
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276. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the details in relation to the calculated grades system; the percentage mark provided by the teacher; the reason it cannot be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8032/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 120, 133, 213, 218 and 276 together.

A Calculated Grade is a grade that can be provided to students following the combination of school information about a student’s expected performance in an examination and national data available in relation to the performance of students in examinations over a period of time.

A calculated grade results from the combination of two data sets:

- A school-based estimation of an overall percentage mark and ranking to be awarded to a student in a particular subject.

- Data available from the State Examinations Commission – this includes data on past performance of students in each school and nationally.

The combination of these data sets through a process of national standardisation can determine the grade to be awarded to each student in each subject, thereby resulting in a calculated grade.

Full details regarding the operation of the Calculated Grades system, including National Standardisation have been issued to schools and students.

The National Standardisation process used will not impose any predetermined score on any individual or class.

My Department has been engaging with the expertise and professional experience that is available including through the Advisory Group. The calculated grades model has been developed with the advice and expertise of my own Department’s staff, including the professional expertise of the Inspectorate, the State Examinations Commission, the Education Research Centre as well as an international expert, Dr. Fernando Cartwright, formerly of Statistics Canada.

An independent Steering Committee chaired by Dr. Áine Lawlor, former Director of the Teaching Council, will oversee the quality and integrity of the calculated grades system.

Photo of Pádraig O'SullivanPádraig O'Sullivan (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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121. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills when students that wish to appeal their predicted grade and sit the exam at a later date will get the opportunity to do so; if he has considered alternative methods to facilitate sitting the exams in order that students do not have to wait a prolonged period of time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7165/20]

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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235. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department has reviewed the possibility of those that choose to sit the leaving certificate in 2020 being permitted to attend college in 2020 if Covid-19 were to significantly stabilise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7866/20]

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail)
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239. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the date for a written leaving certificate to take place in 2020. [7873/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 121, 235 and 239 together.

Any decision to run the 2020 Leaving Certificate examinations at a date in the future will be guided by public health advice at that time. My Department will engage with relevant stakeholders including the State Examinations Commission to assist with the development of plans for the running of the examinations in an environment that may require social distancing and other measures. The safety of students and staff will be the most important consideration.

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.

Photo of Pádraig O'SullivanPádraig O'Sullivan (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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122. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the provisions being made for leaving certificate students that have been home schooled and may not have ever sat a formal exam in a formal school environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7166/20]

Photo of Pádraig O'SullivanPádraig O'Sullivan (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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124. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which students that sit non–curricular subjects such as Polish, Romanian and Russian will be accommodated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7168/20]

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail)
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134. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the process by which a calculated grade will be provided to students that study a subject independently of a school. [7183/20]

Photo of Cathal CroweCathal Crowe (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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163. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the leaving certificate for external candidates (details supplied). [7361/20]

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change)
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170. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if a hotline will be set up to assist external students (details supplied) in view of the fact they have not been contacted in relation to the leaving certificate 2020; if they will be written to; and if an announcement will be made in relation to the way in which grades for these students will be calculated. [7414/20]

Photo of Noel GrealishNoel Grealish (Galway West, Independent)
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206. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which the predictive grading system will work for leaving certificate students that are currently home schooled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7719/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 122, 124, 134, 163, 170 and 206 together.

Where a student is studying one or more subjects outside of a recognised school, every effort should be made by the school to provide an estimated mark where the principal is confident that there is sufficient evidence of the student’s achievement to make an objective judgment. My Department will be flexible in accepting estimated marks and rankings from other schools or colleges, and will look at this issue on a case-by-case basis. All reasonable efforts should be made to obtain a satisfactory evidence base. This includes situations where students are studying subjects outside of school, including the non-curricular languages.

In the case of students taking a subject outside school, the detailed guidance for schools published on 21st May provides details of how schools should proceed if school management authorities are confident that there is sufficient evidence of the student’s achievement to make an objective judgement.

For students in receipt of home tuition with an association to the school, the guidance published on 21st May will provide information for school authorities to engage with the home tutor in arriving at a decision.

If the student is not being taught by a registered teacher, the principal will need to consider whether there is sufficient evidence on which to base an estimate. If there is not sufficient evidence, then it is highly unlikely that the Department will be able to generate a calculated grade for that subject.

In general, provided an estimated mark and ranking can be generated from a teacher in a way that is fair to all candidates, my Department will seek to provide a calculated grade. Students will be able to use this calculated grade in the same way as a Leaving Certificate grade to satisfy minimum entry requirements.

Where it is not possible to provide a calculated grade students will have the opportunity to sit the 2020 Leaving Certificate examination at a later date when it is safe to do so.

Photo of Pádraig O'SullivanPádraig O'Sullivan (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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123. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which students that change levels late in the academic year will be accommodated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7167/20]

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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159. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which it is planned to use predicted grades for leaving certificate students that only moved to a new school in December 2019 and have never met their Irish and history teacher in view of the fact they were on maternity leave when they started in their new school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7319/20]

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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166. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the full arrangements in place in relation to students that were on the leaving certificate applied course; the arrangements in place for attendance; the provision which can be made to facilitate students in these situations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7385/20]

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail)
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187. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if a practical project will be examined as part of the grading for results in relation to the leaving certificate. [7548/20]

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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190. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the arrangements for predictive marking for students that suffer from mental health issues (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7585/20]

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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192. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which a secondary student that does five subjects through school and two outside of school will have predicted grades for the two additional subjects when they do the subjects independently and autonomously; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7596/20]

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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211. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if CPD for teachers was formed as part of contingency planning for the State examinations; and if so, when it will be available. [7735/20]

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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217. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether the process his Department has followed in arriving at the announcement of the calculated grades model on 8 May 2020 was adequate in view of the fact that schools, principals and teachers are still awaiting clarification and a detailed guidance document. [7741/20]

Photo of Holly CairnsHolly Cairns (Cork South West, Social Democrats)
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296. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the process for marking leaving certificate students if the teacher makes a professional assessment that they are not familiar enough with the student or their capacities and for the student to highlight these issues in such a case. [8209/20]

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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302. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which the calculated grades system will apply to students sitting the leaving certificate outside of a secondary school setting and are being facilitated by schools or further education colleges while studying independently; and if these students will have no option but to sit the exam at a later date yet to be announced and will be unable to take up third-level education in the 2020/2021 academic year. [8260/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 123, 159, 166, 187, 190, 192, 211, 217, 296 and 302 together. I published detailed guidance for schools on calculated grades on 21 May. The document sets out information on the process of estimating marks for students to receive calculated grades, and this has been sent to all schools. The document, together with Frequently Asked Questions, are available on my Department’s website. Further guidance and resources are being developed to support the implementation of Calculated Grades. These include an instructional video for teachers and information leaflets for schools and for parents/guardians.

Teachers are asked to use their professional judgement, drawing on existing records and available evidence to arrive at an estimated mark for each student.

If a student is new to a class or school, then the teacher should consult the previous teacher to obtain any relevant documentation. My Department will be flexible in accepting estimated marks and rankings from other schools or colleges, and will look at this issue on a case-by-case basis. All reasonable efforts should be made to obtain a satisfactory evidence base.

An on-line portal for students to confirm the subject level at which they initially entered for the examinations, or to change to a different level, is available since yesterday, Tuesday 26th May.

Leaving Certificate Applied students will be provided with calculated grades for subjects, tasks and vocational specialisms due to be completed in 2020.

Where a student is studying one or more subjects outside of a recognised school, every effort should be made by the school to provide an estimated mark where the principal is confident that there is sufficient evidence of the student’s achievement to make an objective judgement.

For subjects with a practical component, the overall estimate will include the mark that the teacher thinks would have been achieved if it had been marked in the usual way. There is one exception to this: in the case of Home Economics – Scientific and Social, the journal component has already been marked by the SEC, and this mark will not be adjusted.

I would like to reiterate that 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. Teacher professional judgement facilitates incorporating a range of available evidence as to the likely performance of students. Teachers know their students and are able to balance a variety of evidence in arriving at a professional judgement.

Photo of Pádraig O'SullivanPádraig O'Sullivan (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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125. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the details of the advice he received which prompted his decision to rescind the leaving certificate oral and practical marks which were previously awarded 100%; if he will publish this advice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7169/20]

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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214. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for selecting the calculated grades system. [7738/20]

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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293. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the details of the design of the guide for calculated grades for the 2020 leaving certificate; if alternatives were considered; and if he will address the decision to proceed with the system that was chosen. [8196/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 125, 214 and 293 together.

Every effort was made to run the 2020 Leaving Certificate as close as possible to the way the examinations were originally intended to be held. The decision to postpone the Leaving Certificate was taken following an assessment of public health advice, advice from NEPS and other information including the State Examinations Commission’s considerations of the implications for holding the exams in July and August. I concluded that the Leaving Certificate examinations could not be held in a reliable and valid manner, nor in a way that would be equitable for students, In July and August.

The system of calculated grades that has been put in place will allow a student to progress to the next stage of their life in a timely fashion. Students will also have the right to sit the examinations at a later stage when it is safe to hold them in the normal way.

Calculated grades are the best way of getting an accurate estimation of what a student would have achieved across all components of their examination. Teachers are best placed to make a balanced judgement about what the candidate’s overall performance and grade across all aspects of Leaving Certificate subjects would have been. This means the calculated grade will be as close to the outcome of the traditional Leaving Certificate as possible and comparable to the Leaving Certificate grades any other year.

A detailed document A Guide to Calculated Grades for Leaving Certificate students 2020is available on my Department’s website. It explains further how the system works. Detailed guidance for teachers on the operation of the calculated grades system was published and issued to schools on 21 May.

When it was thought possible to proceed with written examinations, but not orals or music performance tests, 100% marks were awarded for the cancelled orals and performance tests. Awarding 100% for orals and music performance tests in the calculated grade system would not be fair to students. An estimated mark for these subject components should be based on the assumption that the components would have proceeded and been marked in the normal manner. Teachers of languages will assess the student’s oral performance as well as their written skills to come to an estimated mark for each student.

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