back to news listing

FAQs on State Examinations 2020 and Continuity of Teaching & Learning


Copy of Exams 2020 FAQs flash

The ASTI is receiving a significant number of queries regarding state examinations in 2020 and continuity of teaching and learning. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers to them. This page is being updated regularly.

 

Latest FAQs May 22nd

Leaving Certificate Assessment 2020:

 

Why is a calculated grades model being implemented for the Leaving Certificate cohort of 2020?

On Friday 8th May, the Minister for Education and Skills announced that his previous plan to hold the Leaving Certificate Examinations in late July/August could not now go ahead. This was because the health advice available from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) was such that the plan to do so is no longer viable. Leaving Certificate 2020 is postponed until it is safe to hold the examinations.

He further announced that his intention is to proceed with a calculated grades model of assessment for Leaving Certificate candidates.

The details of the calculated grades model as announced can be found at the following link: https://www.gov.ie/pdf/file=https://assets.gov.ie/74043/96076aa3e16240cc93e2a56a1ea94d75.pdf#page=1

 

Is guidance available to assist teachers and school leaders to engage with the calculated grades model of assessment for Leaving Certificate 2020 candidates?

Yes. The Guidance to teachers and schools on providing estimated percentage marks and rank order is now published. This guidance can be accessed here: 

https://www.gov.ie/pdf/?file=https://assets.gov.ie/74604/d9e27dc5986e49a5a1b24623e77308d3.pdf#page=5

This document should be read in conjunction with Supplement to Guide for Schools on Providing Estimated Percentage Marks and Class Rank Orderings and the previously published document A Guide to Calculated Grades for Leaving Certificate 2020.

In addition, the Department of Education and Skills has issued a video guide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9l_RXpccvXI&feature=youtu.be

 

What is the ASTI’s view on the calculated grades model?

In the context of the current global pandemic the ASTI recognizes that an emergency Calculated Grades for Leaving Cert 2020 process is necessary in order provide clarity and to allow our Leaving Cert students to progress to the next stage of their lives.

The ASTI has engaged with the process to ensure that the Calculated Grades for Leaving Certificate 2020 model can be rolled out as quickly as possible for students.

 

Is appropriate legal indemnity in place to allow teachers and school leaders to engage with the calculated grades model of assessment for Leaving Certificate 2020 candidates?

Yes.

ASTI was not in a position to advise members to engage and proceed with their work on the Calculated Grades for Leaving Certificate 2020 model when the Minister for Education and Skills released the Guide for Schools on Providing Estimated Percentage Marks and Class Rank Orderings on Thursday 21st May.

Our concerns were related to the potential for teachers and school leaders to have to bear legal costs should civil proceedings be taken against them arising from discharge of their functions under the calculated grades model, notwithstanding that a state indemnity had been put in place.

This could have been the position notwithstanding that a Principal, Deputy Principal or teacher would have engaged with the Calculated Grades for Leaving Certificate 2020 model professionally and in good faith.

ASTI had sought full indemnity for ASTI members while they undertake this work in good faith. The necessary clear assurances and clarifications that allow for teachers to proceed with this work without fear of negative financial consequences have now been secured and are in place.

Crucially, the Department of Education and Skills has given an undertaking that in all cases where the indemnity applies, the Chief State Solicitors Office will take over the running of the litigation.

The section of the indemnity initially provided to ASTI, that envisaged teachers and school leaders having to run their own cases in some circumstances, has effectively been stood down.

This strengthening of the indemnity will ensure that a teacher or school leader will not have to employ their own legal team to defend themselves and run the risk of incurring large irrecoverable costs and expenses.

Arising from these negotiations and upon legal advice, ASTI is in a position to advise its members to engage with the Calculated Grades for Leaving Certificate 2020 model.

 

Is a precedent being set?

No. The ASTI was concerned that the arrangements associated with implementation of the Calculated Grades model would be regarded as a precedent into the future and pursued this matter vigorously in discussions with the Department of Education and Skills. Accordingly, the ASTI secured the following text from the Department of Education and Skills to assure members that no such precedent has been set.

“The Department of Education and Skills recognises the extraordinary circumstances which have been caused by the Covid-19 crisis for Irish students and the education system. In that regard, the Department recognises that exceptional measures will be required in 2020 for the assessment and certification of students’ learning but that implementation of these measures will not be regarded as a precedent or as agreement to operate such measures in future years.”

 

What are calculated grades?

Calculated grades are based on available data.

There are two sources for the necessary data.

  • Phase 1 - Data generated within the school (school-based phase)
  • Phase 2 - Data within and available to the State Examinations Commission (national standardisation phase)

The standardisation process will combine all this data leading to a calculated grade for each student.

The State Examinations Commission data would include available grade data from the Junior and Leaving Certificates of previous years both nationally and of the school. The data relating to the Junior Cycle performances of the current cohort of Leaving Certificate Students is also available. This provides an expected grade distribution over time at national and school level.

 

What data does a school have to provide to the Department of Education and Skills prior to the national standardisation phase of the process?

  • An estimated percentage mark in each subject for each candidate that they would have achieved if they had sat the Leaving Certificate examination as normal.
  • A class ranking for each student in each subject.

 

What is the basis for the involvement of teachers in this process?

The quality of outcomes for the students in this process is dependent on quality data being generated within schools in the first instance.

The first source of data will be provided by the subject teacher. It will then be aligned in the school, with teachers consulting on the results before the principal reviews the process applied to assure the fair treatment of students. The school then sends the data to the Department of Education and Skills.

Once quality data is provided at school level, it is then combined with State Examinations Commission data to produce calculated grades for students.

 

On what basis will teachers be making their decisions regarding the marking estimations of their students?

The detailed guidance on the operation of the process has been issued and should be read carefully.

Each teacher will draw from a variety of sources to arrive at their determinations regarding students in their classes. 

The ‘Guide to Calculated Grades for Leaving Certificate 2020’ sets out the following sources of data.

“Performance on any class assessments for example, house exams, Christmas exams, summer examinations and (with caveats) mock examinations taken over the course of study

Performance on any coursework component, even if this has not been fully completed

Previous results in the school in this subject

The level of performance the teacher has observed in this year’s students compared to those in previous years

Any other relevant information related to student performance.”

ASTI takes the view that a school, in arriving at the student’s grade to be sent to the Department of Education and Skills for standardisation purposes, should rely only on already published school data. (Published school data to mean historical data available on the school system – Christmas tests, Summer tests, etc)

The issued guidance specifically states that “Judgements should be based on the evidence that is available”.

 

How will students be ranked?

A separate rank order for each level (Higher, Ordinary, Foundation) is required for each class and should be recorded on the appropriate documentation.

The detailed guidance on the operation of the process that has been issued clarifies the approach to be taken. Percentage marks, which may include decimals, shall be used.

If, during the process, there are two or more students with the same estimated percentage mark, a separation process will be necessary.

For instance, each student may be marked out of 1000 available marks. This might be useful in a situation where it would be very challenging to rank a group of students whose attainment is very similar – for example, where a number of candidates would be expected to achieve the same percentage mark if marked out of 100. In this case, the approach could be for the teacher to mark the students out of 1000 and covert the marks to percentages. Marking out of 1000 would provide for greater refinement of the teacher’s judgements and when converted to percentages, would automatically create the ranking for the teacher. 

A class ranking for each student in each subject will be generated from the attribution of the marks as above. Even when using the foregoing approach, two or more candidates may have been attributed identical marks. The teacher should look again to see what might just separate them – i.e. a list of all the candidates for a particular subject in a class in the order of their calculated level of achievement will be generated.

 

What happens when the teacher has compiled their marks and rankings for the students in their class?

The next step is an alignment process which is to ensure inter class equity prior to marks and rank orders being submitted to the Department of Education and Skills. This is needed to provide overall fairness for each examination candidate. Once this process has been completed and any necessary adjustments made, the marks and rankings of each student become the school’s mark and ranking. It can no longer be regarded as a mark of an individual teacher.

 

What will be involved in the school alignment of marks process?

In this step of the process, subject teachers collaborate and review the teachers’ estimated scores for students. Following this element of the alignment process each teacher will finalise the estimated scores and the rank order of the students in their class. If there is only one teacher of the subject in the school, the subject teacher conducts the in-school alignment with the Deputy Principal of the school.

 

What role does the Principal of the School have in this process?

After this process is completed, the fourth step involves the finalised data sets being transmitted by the Principal for national standardisation.

 

The Leaving Certificate Applied programme:

The Leaving Certificate Applied programme differs in some key respects from Leaving Certificate established. What arrangements will apply for LCA within the calculated grades model of assessment for Leaving Certificate 2020 candidates?

ASTI has been advised that the following arrangements will apply:

Given the modular nature of the programme, LCA students have already completed a lot of their assessments. These results have already been credited to the students and notified to them. Calculated grades will be used for outstanding assessments. Schools will be required to provide a single estimated percentage mark and class rank order for each of the subjects, vocational specialisms and tasks due to be completed in the current LCA sessions (two and four).  

For example, in the case of the vocational specialisms a single estimated percentage mark which incorporates the written examination and coursework or practical assessment as appropriate is required.  Similarly, in the case of the modern foreign languages, the estimated mark should incorporate the oral assessment and written examination.  

In the case of any module that was being carried out in Session 2 (Year one students) or Session 4 (Year two students) each student may be awarded the credit for satisfactory completion of that module, provided that the school is satisfied the student had engaged meaningfully with module concerned. The level of engagement need only be such as to provide a reasonable prospect that the candidate would have completed the module, and giving the benefit of any reasonable doubt to the candidate.

In respect of students who were unable to present for assessment in their tasks in sessions one and three, and who were to be provided with the opportunity to be assessed in May 2020 (Late Tasks), estimated percentage marks should be provided.  In these cases, no rank order is required.

In common with Leaving Certificate established Students, an opportunity will be provided to sit the written examinations at a later date when it is practicable and safe to do so.

Detailed information on subjects, vocational specialisms and tasks is provided in the guidance which has now been issued.

Arrangements will be made to issue LCA Session 3 Module Credits (Year 2 Candidates) to schools at the earliest opportunity.   

 

I teach a subject that has never been examined at Leaving Certificate before, (Physical Education, Computer Science) and there is no data available on previous outcomes in my subject in the school. How do I proceed?

The guidance that has been issued addresses this matter. Teachers are advised to refer to the specifications and guidelines for both subjects.  

The estimated mark should be for the subject as a whole, combining all components into a single estimate, and taking account of all evidence available.  

 

My students take their examinations through Irish. How will this be dealt with when estimating the marks for the students in my class?

School’s should base the estimate of the student’s likely performance on the assumption that this bonus is included in the estimate.

 

How are students estimated marks to be calculated where a reasonable accommodation has been approved for a student?

This should be calculated on the school’s estimate of the student’s likely performance on the assumption that this accommodation would have been available.  

 

How are marks and rankings to be achieved for students who are new to a class?

For a student who has joined a class from another class in the school, the teacher should consult with the previous teacher and get whatever relevant records they have.  If the student has joined a class from another school, and if the length of time is such that a teacher does not consider they have enough evidence to make a sound estimate, they should consult with school management about acquiring additional information from the student’s previous school.  If this is not possible, the school will have to make the best estimate possible based on the evidence available.

 

How are conflicts of interest managed?

The guidance that has been issued addresses this issue. It provides as follows:

The principles of equity, fairness and objectivity are paramount in the calculated grades system.  If there is a student in a class about whom there is an actual or perceived conflict of interest involved in giving an estimated mark to, such as a son, daughter, sister, or brother, this should be drawn to the attention of the principal.  The teacher may still need to assist in the process, by handing over data or factual information, but should not be involved in any judgment process that relates to that student as an individual.  There will be additional oversight by the principal/deputy principal in such cases.  This will include the principal/deputy principal countersigning Form A to confirm that appropriate arrangements were put in place and that he/she provided additional oversight and approval of the estimated mark.  In instances where the principal is the teacher concerned, the deputy principal will make the necessary arrangements and oversee all tasks in relation to this student and this student’s class. 

 

There are some students in our school undertaking individual Leaving Certificate subjects on an extra mural basis. How will these students be accommodated?

The following is the latest guidance from the DES in relation subjects being studied outside school:
Information in relation to subjects being studied outside of school is set out in the Guide for Schools on Providing Estimated Percentage Marks and Class Rank Orderings, section 16.1.

As stated, an important objective in using the Calculated Grades model, in the current health emergency, is to allow as many students as possible to have their learning achievements acknowledged in a way that allows them to progress to third-level education or the world of work. Consequently, every possible effort should be made to obtain a satisfactory evidence base. Students are depending on their schools to seek whatever evidence is necessary for this process, in order that they can receive a Calculated Grade in these subjects. In the first instance this is likely to include contacting the parent or guardian of these students to elicit as much information as possible, in relation to any connections with a teacher or tutor, who may have been involved in some way with the learning and who might therefore be able to assist the school in arriving at an estimated mark.

The principal, in collaboration with a teacher or tutor who is providing tuition outside of the school, should consider as broad a range of evidence as possible so that all avenues are pursued to ensure the provision of an estimated mark in these cases. This evidence may vary from subject to subject given the range of subjects involved. The subjects may include both curricular subjects and the non-curricular languages.

The Calculated Grades Executive Office (CGEO) continues to liaise with a number of teacher networks, that support teaching and learning in the non-curricular languages, to support their engagement with the Calculated Grades process in relation to any Leaving Certificate students that they are engaged with.

Post Primary Language Ireland (PPLI)* will provide assistance to schools in relation to the provision of estimated marks for students who have been engaged in the study of languages with teachers and tutors provided by PPLI.

It is important to note that not all students have engaged in tuition provided by PPLI and therefore this approach may not apply to all students in the school. Other avenues will need to be pursued in relation to students taking languages outside of school and who have not engaged with PPLI.

* Post-Primary Languages Ireland (PPLI) is a DES-funded project of the Curriculum and Assessment policy unit in the Department of Education and Skills. It is a dedicated unit providing expertise and support for foreign languages education in Ireland, predominantly at post-primary level. Its focus is on enhancing and broadening the opportunities available to students for learning foreign languages.

Clarification in relation to the completion of forms for subjects outside of school:

Where a subject is being studied outside of school, a Form A with the estimated percentage mark is required for each student. The principal completes a Form C. A rank order is not required in these cases. It is stated on Form C that where there is a group of students studying a subject out of school with the same teacher/tutor, a Form B may be completed for this group of students. This is not essential but may be completed if the teacher/tutor wishes to do so. The estimated mark for subjects outside of school will be entered to the Esinet Calculated Grades application from the Forms C. In the case of subjects outside of school, the rank order will not be considered in the standardisation process by the Department given that they are not part of a class group within a school.

As noted in the guide, if, having made every possible effort to identify evidence on which to base a judgment, the principal is of the view that the school has insufficient evidence on which to base an estimate, Form D should be completed, providing details on the form. These forms should be retained securely with the other documentation. In the event that there is a Form D for a subject for a student, the CGEO will contact the school to confirm with the school the process undertaken to arrive at a decision that an estimated mark could not be provided.

 

 

How do we manage the estimation of marks and ranking for repeat students?

The guidance that has been issued addresses this issue.

If a student is repeating having previously been enrolled in the school for the first sitting, evidence of achievement from both cycles should be considered, but particular weight being given to the student’s work and level of achievement during the repeat year.  If the student has a different teacher during the repeat year, the most recent teacher (who will be making the estimate) may be in a position to consult with the previous one and have access to any necessary records.

If the student was previously enrolled in a different school, the same procedures as set out in the guidance in respect of students new to the school apply.


How do we manage the estimation of marks for repeat students of LCVP?
In the case of repeat students taking LCVP Link Modules, the State Examinations Commission has been asked to make the Portfolio of Coursework mark, from the previous sitting of the Leaving Certificate, available to schools to assist them with the estimation process. As for all other students, the estimated percentage mark should be for the link modules as a whole, (portfolio and examination,) the only difference being that in this case it will incorporate the known mark from the coursework from the previous sitting.

I have been having problems with the fillable pdf version of Form B
An issue was brought to the attention of the DES I relation to the fillable pdf version of Form B that was made available on the website. (On row 19 of the rank order list, the form would not allow the user to insert an estimated percentage mark in the relevant cell.) An amended version was uploaded to the website on 30 May at 12:20pm. If any teacher intends to fill out this form digitally, and if they downloaded it before this time, download a fresh copy.


I have a student on my list who I am aware has withdrawn from my subject, what should I do?
All students who are entered for examinations with the State Examinations Commission will appear on the Esinet application for inclusion in the Calculated Grades process. It is expected that schools will provide with an estimated percentage mark and class rank order for every student listed. In the event that the school is aware that a student has formally withdrawn from the examinations (or from some subjects), it is essential that the school formally withdraws them from the examination process. This can be done by contacting Entries section in the State Examinations Commission at entries@examinations.ie if the school is certain that the student has actually withdrawn.


How do we manage the estimation of marks for repeat students of LCVP?
In the case of repeat students taking LCVP Link Modules, the State Examinations Commission has been asked to make the Portfolio of Coursework mark, from the previous sitting of the Leaving Certificate, available to schools to assist them with the estimation process. As for all other students, the estimated percentage mark should be for the link modules as a whole, (portfolio and examination,) the only difference being that in this case it will incorporate the known mark from the coursework from the previous sitting.


 

If Students in a class have been taught by a new or a substitute teacher in recent months, how will their estimated marks and rankings be managed?

Schools should seek to ensure that the estimates for students are made by the person best able to do so.  In many cases, this will be a matter of sensible judgment in the circumstances that apply.  In the case where, at the point of school closure, a class was being taught by a temporary or recently appointed teacher who would have had little opportunity to get to know the students and their levels of achievement, schools should consider whether the assistance of the previous teacher can be made available. However, if there is no access to the previous teacher, it may be possible to arrange for some assistance for the new teacher, perhaps from another experienced teacher in the school for example.  

 

How do I manage this process in the context of confidentiality and data protection requirements?

The guidance that has been issued to teachers and schools addresses this issue. Teachers and school leaders should read it carefully. It is important that teachers remain at all times in compliance with the school’s data protection policies, whether that be in relation to generating, accessing or transmitting records, or in relation to the media through which confidential information is discussed.

Records should not be retained for any longer than they are required.  In particular, once the principal has signed off on the post-alignment estimated marks and rank orderings, there is no need for any teacher to retain copies of forms A or B or any records that were generated in the course of completing them.  Any such records should be securely destroyed. 

School management should keep all records (whether paper or digital) in a manner that complies with the school’s data protection policies in relation to personal records.  All forms, along with any necessary supporting documentation (of which there may be none) should be retained until the school has been notified that all stages of the appeal process have been completed.

 

Will Examination Aides be employed by schools to assist in the administration of the calculated grades model of assessment for Leaving Certificate 2020 candidates?

The Department of Education and Skills have confirmed to ASTI that schools will be permitted to appoint an Examination Aide in 2020 to assist the management of schools in the administration of the calculated grades model in schools. Details will be developed and confirmed to schools.

 

Do students have to opt-in to receive the calculated grades being offered under the calculated grades model of assessment for Leaving Certificate 2020 candidates?

Yes. All students were offered the option of accepting Calculated Grades for the subjects they are studying. All Leaving Certificate and Leaving Certificate Applied students were required to register for the Calculated Grades process between 10am Tuesday 26 May and 12 noon Friday May 29.
Students will also have the opportunity to sit all or some of the Leaving Certificate examinations at a date in the future when it is considered safe to hold the examinations.

 

Are students being asked to re-nominate the subject levels (Higher, Ordinary, Foundation) at which they wish to receive their calculated grades under the calculated grades model of assessment for Leaving Certificate 2020 candidates?

Yes. Students must confirm or renominate the subject levels (Higher, Ordinary, Foundation) at which they wish to receive their calculated grades under the calculated grades model of assessment. Students may nominate their previous level or a lower level. All Leaving Certificate and Leaving Certificate Applied students are required to register for the Calculated Grades process between 10am Tuesday 26 May and 10pm Thursday 28 May. 

 

I have a student in my class who changed their level earlier this year. What should I do?

The guidance addresses this issue. Teachers are asked to consider the available evidence of achievement for this student and draw on their experience of how similar students in the past have fared when they changed level.

 

Can schools proceed with their work within the calculated grades model of assessment for Leaving Certificate 2020 candidates prior to opt-in and subject level confirmations from students?

Yes. Schools should proceed on the assumption that each student remains entered for the subject at the level that was understood to be the case at the most recent interaction with them. No effort should be made to seek confirmation of levels from students in a manner independent of the process being put in place by the Department of Education and Skill. This situation may necessitate some adjustments to marking and class lists in a small number of cases later in the process when the necessary confirmation of levels become available from students. ASTI has expressed its disappointment to the Department of Education and Skills that the necessary arrangements for securing this information has not been put in place sooner.

 

What arrangements are being made for return of coursework to schools that had previously been submitted to the State Examinations Commission for marking?

Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) portfolios: These will be returned to schools so that they are available to teachers should they wish to review them as part of their work in respect of arriving at estimated marks for that subject. Teachers will not be expected to mark this material.

Design and Communication Graphics: Schools retain a full copy of material submitted to the SEC in relation to Design and Communication Graphics. Teachers can access this material to review it as part of their work in respect of arriving at estimated marks for that subject.

Leaving Certificate Home Economics – Scientific and Social: An exceptional arrangement is being made for coursework in this subject. This coursework was submitted to the State Examinations Commission in 2019 and had already been provisionally marked at the point when schools closed.  As in the case of the Leaving Certificate examinations that run each year, the release of these component marks prior to the issue of provisional results will not take place.  In the case of Home Economics - Scientific and Social, the school will be asked to provide an estimated percentage mark for the written examination only. The mark submitted will be combined with the mark the coursework portion of the work has already been attributed and will then be subjected to the standardisation process within the DES to arrive at the final calculated grade for the candidate.  To avoid the provisional mark awarded to the journal influencing the school’s estimation in respect of the final examination paper, the provisional mark assigned to the journal will not be released at this stage.  It will however be made available following the issue of results. 

 

Will training be provided to teachers on how to implement the Calculated Grades model?

Yes. Detailed guidance on the operation of the process will issue shortly. Online training will be provided regarding all aspects of the process.

 

When does tuition to final year Leaving Certificate students cease, given that calculated grades are being put in place?

As of 11 May 2020, tuition (whether online or in other ways) ceased for sixth-year leaving certificate students. This applies to the Leaving Certificate established, Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP).

No additional work will be accepted from students from this date. Teachers and students may not discuss the student’s achievement in the subject over the past two years. Nor can they discuss the student’s ranking in a class, or their estimated mark or the level at which an estimated mark is to be provided in a subject.

However, students remain students of the school until the end of the school term. In terms of the school’s role in supporting the wellbeing of Leaving Certificate students, the role of the Student Support Team as set out in the guidance issued recently to schools , should remain availble until the end of the school term. You can access links to the supports provided by the National Education Psychological Service (NEPS) here.

 

How and when will a school sign off on this work?

The ASTI has been informed that it is hoped that the final data sets will be submitted to the Department of Education and Skills by the Principal before the end of May 2020. This may prove to be an over ambitious target.

 

I work in a new school that does not have the requisite historical data. What will happen in our situation?

The guidelines issued by the Department of Education and Skills state that teachers should use a range of evidence to support their judgment-making when estimating students’ marks and rankings. It is recognised that the range and amount of available evidence will be less in this instance and estimates should be based on the evidence that is available.

If there is not sufficient evidence available in the school on which to base a sound estimate, the principal should contact the previous school students attended to ascertain whether additional information can be made available to support the process. It may still be possible for the school to provide estimated marks for such a student, even if it does not prove possible to get information from the previous school. This will depend on the amount of evidence of learning that the school has acquired. As much relevant information as possible should be sought and/or assembled to allow the teachers involved to make the best estimates possible in the circumstances.

 

I have become a Leaving Certificate class teacher in my subject in recent months. I do not feel that I have a sufficient knowledge of the students and the class to make a comprehensive estimation regarding their work. What should be done?

The school should make every effort to assemble all the evidence of the students learning for the duration of their Leaving Certificate course to ensure a full and comprehensive estimation of their grades.

 

In March, the Minister for Education and Skills announced that all Leaving Certificate students studying languages would receive marks of 100% in lieu of oral assessments that were due to be held in Irish and modern European languages. What is the position now?

The Minister has indicated that this will not happen now. These marks are set aside. All subjects will be assessed using the calculated grades model. The oral component will be considered within the process on the basis of what the school estimates would be the mark for these components in each subject.

The ASTI is calling for the Minister to honour his decision to grant full marks to students for orals, practicals, etc. and to now grant full marks to all Leaving Certificate project/ practical work.

We have written to the Minister directly and are currently pursuing the matter vigorously with his department.

 

When will results be available?

The Department of Education and Skills intends that the provisional results will issue in late August or early September and will be transmitted to the CAO system at that time.

 

Will there be an appeal process available for students who would wish to do so?

Yes. It is open to a candidate to appeal his/her calculated grades.

 

How will the appeals process operate if a student is unhappy with their calculated grade in any subject?

Appeals will be confined to checking the mechanical aspects of the process such as errors in data entry to computers, transmission and totting errors etc. The professional judgement of the teacher may not be appealed.

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

  • A series of checks that data was correctly entered at school level and correctly transferred to the DES
  • A review that the submitted data was correctly received and processed at the national standardisation stage
  • Verification of the DES processes by independent appeal scrutineers

 

What happens where a candidate remains unhappy with the outcome of the calculated grade awarded?

Such students will have the opportunity to sit a normal Leaving Certificate examination in the subject(s) when the holding of conventional examinations becomes possible. If a candidate secures a higher grade in that examination the certification provided to the candidate will be amended.

 

If an improved Leaving Certificate and CAO points score arises from this process that shows that the student should have been enabled to undertake a different third level course, how will that be accommodated?

He/she will be facilitated in taking up that place as soon as practicable.

 

Will the Central Applications Office (CAO) accept the outcomes of this process as equivalent to the traditional Leaving Certificate results of students and convert results into points in the normal way?

The ASTI has been informed that the Central Applications Office (CAO) will accept the outcomes of this process as equivalent to the traditional Leaving Certificate results of students. They have already informed the UK authorities and other EU and international school bodies that they will do likewise for their end-of-school certification, many of which have already moved for 2020 to a calculated grade model. They will convert results into points in the normal way in order to allocate college places to students to which they are entitled.

 

Will third level institutions accept this as equivalent to the traditional Leaving Certificate results of students?

Yes. The ASTI has been informed that all the third level institutions will accept the outcomes of this process as equivalent to the traditional Leaving Certificate results of students.

 

There has been much commentary that the Higher Education Institutions should have done more to assist in creating the circumstances to assist in the passage of students from second-level to third-level education. What is the position?

The ASTI sought and received a clarification statement from Higher Education Authority regarding this matter and other queries on examinations 2020. Received just prior to the Minister’s announcement regarding the calculated grades process, it stated as follows:

 “Leaving aside that an entry test to third level of any sort would be irrelevant to a large section of the 2020 cohort who are happily ambitious for other outcomes such as Further Education, Apprenticeships or direct entry into the workplace, it is impossible to come up with a system that is equitable and fair. The issues of inter-year justice and rewarding the ongoing work of students (which the proposed system addresses), cannot be served by a sudden creation of 3rd level entry exams from scratch over a few months.

 

  • In theory, the HEIs could put in place their own admissions procedures (Matriculation exam, SAT-type test, interviews, etc) but these would face the same issues as the Leaving Cert with regard to organisation, social distancing and health and wellbeing risk.
  • A central Matriculation exam would need to be agreed across 22 institutions, standards set in the context of the curriculum, a marking scheme agreed, applied, moderated, marked and standardised. Forgetting about the issue of equity between different years of exam entrants, creating such a system as complex as the leaving certificate, but not run by the SEC, in a few months is no solution for anxious students.

 

Alternatively, institutions could run their own entry exams. Students with multiple course choices would then presumably sit a number of such exams. The problems above apply, compounded by an extra burden on students sitting multiple.

 Similarly SAT type exams could be developed (or given the timeframe, procured). Again, all the issues above apply with regard to logistics, organisation, social distancing and health and wellbeing. And if certain courses seek specific aptitudes, a number of SATs would be required. Students with multiple choices would be required to sit multiple SATS.

 An appeals mechanism for all the above would need to created.

 

  • Any of the procedures raised would be inherently much less fair to LC students than that which is currently proposed, as there will have been no preparation for it by students, no standardised model to follow and, potentially, a different exam/procedure for each institution. Further they would do nothing to certify those not bound for 3rd level whose ambitions lie elsewhere. On top of this uncertainty and mental strain would continue to be a huge factor the 2020 LC cohort as they wait for these alternatives to be developed and run.

 An open entry/all-comers approach would have a very significant destabilising effect across the Irish HE and FET systems, in terms of student numbers and distribution, with far reaching consequences for all students and staff. It would also result in very significant student non-completion rates during the first academic year, as numbers are whittled down to ensure adequate resources and physical facilities (e.g. labs) per student are available in subsequent years. The student: staff ratio would go through the roof. This approach would have significant knock-on effects for students, including loss of funding and SUSI grants etc if they start another programme in a subsequent year. An open entry approach would be particularly problematic in a Covid-19 context where additional social distancing requirements are in place, and where on campus student interactions and supports are reduced. While it is probable that international numbers will be down (although at the moment our information is that applications are broadly holding up), there will be Irish students staying at home too now who will require places here.

  • While social distancing requirements  may create downward pressure on admissions numbers for the coming academic year, the HEIs are willing to examine what room for manoeuvre is possible around numbers in high demand courses, without destabilising the broader HE and FET systems, and subject to government quotas and funding for domestic students in many of these courses.”

 

What information will be available to students after the process is complete?

Students will be entitled to submit a data access request under Data Protection legislation. The school’s mark and ranking for the individual will be made available to those who request it.

 

Are measures in place to deal with any attempt to canvass teachers and/or school leaders regarding their work regarding the calculated grades model of assessment for Leaving Certificate 2020 candidates?

Key excerpts from the measures in place, as set out in the guidelines, to deal with any attempt to canvass teachers and/or school leaders regarding their work on the calculated grades model of assessment for Leaving Certificate candidates are set out below.

‘The principal, deputy principal(s), teachers or other members of the school staff will follow the Department’s specified procedures and must not under any circumstances discuss with or disclose to any student or parent or guardian of any student the estimated marks and ranking that the school is submitting.’ 

‘Conversely, parents/guardians and students must not under any circumstances contact, either formally or informally, directly or indirectly, a teacher or other member of staff at any stage to discuss or with a view to influencing the decision-making process relating to the estimated marks or ranking to be assigned to a student in any subject or which may confer an undue advantage to a particular student.’

‘Teachers and schools must not be subjected to any type of influence, inducement (including gifts), pressure or coercion by a parent/guardian, student or any other person in relation to a student’s mark or ranking either before or after it has been assigned. This includes any financial, economic or other personal interest which might be perceived to compromise the teacher’s impartiality and independence in the context of the decision-making process.’

‘Where a person (student, parent/guardian or other person) contacts a teacher or other staff member in respect of a student’s estimated marks, regardless of whether it is their intention to interfere with the integrity of the process, the teacher or staff member should: 

Not engage in discussion on the topic; 

State that he/she is not permitted to discuss any aspect of the student’s work, academic progress, estimated marks or rankings, or anticipated Leaving Certificate grades/points; 

State that the contact made will not in any way influence the teacher’s decision-making concerning the student’s academic progress, estimated marks or rankings as part of the process; 

If the attempt to engage in discussion or contact persists, state that he/she will have to make a formal record of the contact and pass this record to the school principal and that the principal will have to inform the Department that contact about the student was made.’

 ‘Where the attempt to contact or engage in discussion persists, the teacher or staff member must report this contact immediately to the principal of the school and provide the principal with a written record of the contact or attempted contact. That record shall include the following details regarding the fact of contact: 

The name of the person/s who contacted the teacher or other staff member

The name of the student/s in relation to whom the contact was made 

The date/s and time/s of the contact 

The way in which the contact was made – e.g. telephone, email, letter, direct personal contact etc. 

 The contact details (e.g. telephone number, email address) of the person/s who made contact if those details were obtained. 

That record will be maintained by the principal until the conclusion of any potential review or appeal process associated with the awarding of the candidate’s calculated grades.’

‘The principal must notify the Department as soon as is practicable that the school has a record of a contact by a person in respect of the marks and/or ranking to be assigned to a named student. The purpose of the notification of this information to the Department is to ensure the transparency, the maintenance of appropriate records, and adequate oversight of the decision-making process associated with the process of assigning estimated grades and rankings. 

In line with that purpose, the Department will request a specific written affirmation from the principal in respect of the marks and ranking assigned to the named student that all procedures at school level were followed with the diligence and care required at each stage (i.e. teacher estimation, subject alignment and oversight phases) despite the alleged contact. Receipt of this affirmation by the Department will be required before the student’s marks and ranking can be processed for national standardisation.’  

 

What allowances will be made for students who would require a reasonable accommodation in the Leaving Certificate Examinations?

Where any reasonable accommodation has been approved by the SEC for any student, such as a reader or scribe, schools will be asked to base their estimate of the student’s likely performance on the assumption that this accommodation would have been available.

 

Will the Leaving Certificate fee will be waived?

The Department of Education and Skills has stated that where students opt to sit the conventional Leaving Certificate examination later in the year the examination fee will be waived. Anyone who has paid already will be refunded.

 

Junior Certificate / Junior Cycle:

 

What is required for assessment and reporting on students’ learning at Junior Cycle for 2020?

 The Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh TD, has issued guidelines for schools regarding assessment and reporting on students’ learning at Junior Cycle for 2020.

These guidelines have emerged following recommendations from the Advisory Group for Contingency Planning for State Examinations 2020.

The ASTI participated in discussions at the advisory group with the objective of securing cancellation of all elements of this year’s Junior Cycle Examinations and replacement with a more suitable set of arrangements for 2020. ASTI succeeded in the achievement of that objective.

The ASTI called on Minister for Education and Skills to award a State Certificate this year to all of this year’s Junior Cycle candidates in recognition of their participation in and completion of their three years of Junior Cycle in June 2020. It is welcome that the centrepiece of the arrangements being put in place fulfils this request.

The arrangements are an acknowledgement that all elements of the Junior Certificate are cancelled in 2020.

The ASTI has expressed regret that this year’s cohort of Junior Certificate students will not have the opportunity to sit the examinations as normal. The experience of this examination has always been a valuable milestone in the educational experience of Irish Students. However, having regard to all the circumstances, the guidelines that have been issued are the best that can be achieved this year.

The ASTI believes that the well-being of Junior Certificate students is best served by the freedom to enjoy the summer of 2020 without the pressure of examinations hanging over them as had previously been proposed.

The guidelines issued also set out arrangements whereby schools can report on the learning achievements in Junior Cycle of each student.

 

Please see Guidelines on Assessment and Reporting on Students’ Learning here.

 

Will the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement be awarded?

No. All elements of this year’s Junior Certificate are cancelled including the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement. The guidelines state that the normal range of assessment activities cannot be concluded consistently for all students. In that context, the use of the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) is not appropriate as a reporting and certification mechanism in 2020.

It is significant that the State Certificate being awarded this year is being awarded by the Minister for Education and Skills and not the State Examinations Commission. This is because there will be no assessment elements included.

 

How will Junior Cycle learning achievement of students be recognised or certified in 2020?

There will be two elements in the certification of student learning achievement for Junior Cycle in 2020.

State Certificate:

A State Certificate of completion of Junior Cycle from the Department of Education and Skills. Students should receive a State Certification that they have completed three years of Junior Cycle education in a number of subjects/priority learning units. This certification will be provided by the Department of Education and Skills.

School Report:

A School Report setting out the learning achievements of students in Junior Cycle. Students should receive a written report on the broad range of learning that they have achieved in each subject, short course and/or priority learning unit at the end of Junior Cycle. This assessment of their learning will be provided by their teachers. Schools will have autonomy in how this assessment is to be arrived at and the format in which the report is provided.

 

Does this announcement by the Minister comply with the long-standing position of ASTI that Junior Cycle students should not be assessed by their own teachers for the purpose of State certification?

Yes, it does. The State Certificates that will be issued to students who have completed the three years of the Junior Cycle acknowledge their participation and completion of Junior Cycle and does not involve assessment of any kind. The school reports that will also be issued are not State Certified.  

 

What arrangements are being put in place by the Department of Education and Skills to award State Certification?

The Department of Education and Skills will provide each student with a certificate indicating the completion of the Junior Cycle programme of study, including the list of subjects, short courses and/or priority learning units studied and the level at which the subject was studied.

This data will be drawn from the Department’s Post-primary Online Database (PPOD) and will not exceed the 10-subject limit on subjects for certification set out in Circular Letter 0055/2019 (or lower where the student has studied short courses).

This certificate will be provided early in the school year 2020/21.

 

How will the school’s assessment of students’ learning achievements be undertaken? 

The assessment of students’ learning achievements in each subject will take place at school level and will be based on the teacher’s professional knowledge of each student’s learning. Schools will have autonomy to choose the most appropriate form of school-based assessments to put in place for the third-year cohort of 2019/20.

Schools may opt to use a range of evidence to inform their assessment of students’ achievements. These could include:

  • Evidence available from assignments, tests, tasks journals, projects, practical and other work completed over the course of second year and third year
  • Classroom-Based Assessments completed in second year and third year
  • School-designed examinations, tasks, projects, assignments, essay style questions, presentations, or other tasks chosen by the teacher from the range of approaches agreed at school level.

Each school should adopt a whole-school approach to the assessment and reporting on student achievement following consultation with the teachers of third-year students to determine the most appropriate method of assessment for the third-year group and relevant subjects. The board of the school should communicate with parents/guardians and students in relation to the proposed actions that the school intends to take in relation to the planned end-of-year assessments.

 

What might be considered within the guideline that a whole-school approach to the assessment and reporting on student achievement be undertaken?

Whether or not to use grades or descriptors or a combination of both might be included among considerations within the whole school approach to the assessment and reporting on student achievement. This would follow consultation with teachers to ascertain their professional judgement on the best approach.

It will be necessary for schools to achieve a level of consistency in reportage across all subjects.

 

How should a subject teacher approach assessment of students’ learning achievements?

The Guidelines state that: “For each subject, the evidence of learning to be used and any method of assessment chosen should be decided by the relevant subject teachers in the context of the whole-school approach adopted above. Teachers know their students and can balance a variety of factors in arriving at the most suitable form of assessment to put in place for their students.”

From the foregoing, it is clear that teachers will decide what happens regarding their subject and how best to assess their students. It will not be a decision for school management.

Subject department colleagues should consult and agree the most appropriate assessment in their subject area. Relevant considerations might include the particular cohort of students and performance as demonstrated throughout the year with particular emphasis on the teaching and learning experience since 12th March. Management should then be advised of the chosen assessment methodology for the subject.

The Guidelines state that:

“Any additional assessment or other form of end-of-year assignment agreed to be completed by students should be limited in scope, cognisant of the disrupted learning that students have experienced in 2020, and recognise that some students may be unable to undertake such additional assessments because of issues arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“School-based assessments should be devised and marked by the class teacher. The method or format of assessment used (for example, written or electronic format) should take cognisance of students’ accessibility to the mode chosen. The assessment format chosen should be accessible to all students in the class.”

 

What is the scope of the assessment of a students’ learning?

The Guidelines state that:

“To ensure equity, greater weighting should be given to work that was completed by students in advance of the closure of schools on 12 March 2020. Cognisance may be given to work completed after that date but teachers should have regard to the impact that school closure will have had on students’ ability to engage with further learning after 12 March 2020 and their ability to complete any additional assessment tasks. For example, some students may be unable to undertake any additional assessment tasks because of issues arising from the Covid-19 crisis. In such circumstances, the assessment of the students’ learning, and the report of their achievement issued by the school, may be based solely on work completed prior to 12 March 2020.”

Given ASTI’s repeated calls for measures to be taken to ensure that no disadvantage should occur this year for examination students, we welcome the approach that more emphasis should be placed on work completed before the 12th March in order to ensure equity.

Where relevant the method or format of assessment used should be inclusive of students with special educational needs (SEN) and provide differentiated approaches to allow students with SEN to access the appropriate assessment mode and be adaptable to their particular context.

 

When should the school’s assessment of students’ learning achievements be undertaken?

Students should have the opportunity to complete any additional assessments within a clearly defined timeframe. A collaborative approach should be used in schools to devise a suitable timeframe for the completion of assessments and should be reviewed at whole-school level to ensure that the timeframes are balanced and achievable. In all cases, all assessments should be completed and marked before 29 May 2020.

ASTI was particularly vigilant in discussions with the Department of Education and Skills to ensure that time would be made available before 29th May to allow for marking of the work submitted by students. ASTI members in all schools must ensure that this provision within the guidelines is adhered to.

 

Should assignments or assessments be set and marked in May?

This is a matter best determined by the teachers of each individual subject.

ASTI acknowledges that minor assignments or assessments can take place in May but would emphasise the following considerations:

  • School closures on March 12th have had an enormously disruptive impact on teaching and learning despite the trojan efforts of all concerned;
  • Not all students have had the same access to online resources or broadband availability;
  • The guidelines state that such assignments or assessments must be limited in scope;
  • All students must be treated equally and fairly and whatever mode of assessment is chosen must be accessible to all students in the year;
  • Particular attention must be taken to ensure that students with special educational needs are appropriately catered for.

What report will be provided to students?

Students and their parents should receive a written report of the assessment of the student’s learning in each subject, short course and/or priority learning unit.

This report may include the provision of grades or descriptors. It may also detail separately the descriptors awarded to classroom-based assessments (CBAs) and/or priority learning units.

The report should also provide an opportunity for schools to report on other aspects of achievement including the wellbeing programme completed by students.

 

What reporting format should be used?

Schools are free to devise their own report format but also may use a reporting template available from the NCCA. A school generated report would typically resemble that normally provided to students at year end.

 

Continuity of Teaching & Learning

 

What is the ASTI's position regarding remote teaching and learning?

It is expected that schools will not reopen before the end of this year’s normal school tuition calendar. Remote teaching and learning will continue. Prior to the Easter break, the ASTI wrote to the Department of Education and Skills and sought to achieve agreed operational guidelines to assist in this whole new way of delivering second-level education. Unfortunately, the Department of Education and Skills did not respond to that request and proceeded to issue a document entitled ‘Guidelines on Continuity of Schooling - For Primary and Post- Primary Schools’ dated 2nd April 2020.

This document was issued without any consultation with teacher unions despite the ASTI’s request and a number of representations having also been made to the Department by others. The ASTI protested this approach and an apology was issued.

What has been presented by the Department of Education and Skills is a poorly crafted document which is inconsistent and in a number of instances advocates unrealistic approaches and unwarranted outcomes, which will add greatly to the stress experienced by all concerned at this time.

ASTI believes that an important opportunity has been missed to provide agreed guidance that would be truly beneficial to all interested parties at this time. The published document enjoys no standing from an ASTI point of view and must be rejected as a purportedly useful intervention to support the continuity of teaching and learning during this Public Health Emergency.

The ASTI has issued advice to members on the continuity of teaching and learning.

This ASTI advice covers what is expected of teachers, support for teachers, staying protected online and tips for work/life balance.

I have a concern regarding the work of my current 2nd year students and 5th year students. What measures will be put in place to deal with deficits that arise that impact on their Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate Examinations respectively in 2021?

ASTI will be pursuing this issue of concern that has been raised by members.

Further information will be provided as soon as it is available.

 

When will schools re-open for all students to commence the 2020/2021 school year?

Decisions regarding all operational matters in schools are entirely guided by the advice of the public health authorities. 

Further information will be provided as soon as it is available.