Credit: Merrion Street

“Eight or nine hundred” students shafted in Leaving Cert mess

These figures are just for those who missed out because their results were wrongly downgraded. They’re by no means the only students who were completely screwed by the Government’s incompetence, as we’ll explain in a moment:

Yesterday it emerged that about 7,200 Leaving Cert grades were affected by errors in the calculated grades system.

It is not yet clear how many students lost out on a college place because of the issue, but it’s understood 800 to 900 students could be affected.

Universities have warned they do not have the capacity to offer places to all students may receive a new CAO offer on foot of the situation.

Of course, it’s easy to understand how this eight or nine hundred were affected: They should have gotten a H2 in Maths, they were given a H3 instead, and that meant ten points fewer than the number they were entitled to.

But the errors didn’t only go one way: A bunch of students were wrongly upgraded, too. Why does that matter?

It matters because, if you got the correct results, you were then put into direct competition with students who were mistakenly given a higher grade. You got 495 points, but somebody on the other side of the country was awarded 500 points instead of 490.

They got into the course you wanted, you did not.

In truth, there isn’t a single student in the country who can be confident that this year’s college places were awarded on merit, to the correct students. It’s one of the biggest scandals in the history of the state.

Nobody will resign, of course. Norma Foley was Micheál Martin’s handpicked superstar – he plucked her from obscurity and said “this is my woman”. If she were to resign, it would be devastating for him, as well as her. So it doesn’t really matter how bad this gets – Norma Foley is staying.

There’ll be no accountability in the civil service either, of course. The company they hired to do the code will take all of the blame – which is fine, because they’ve already been paid a hundred and sixty grand.

And what of the students who are left holding the bag on this one? They didn’t ask for this mess – it’s been inflicted upon them by the sheer, incredible, incompetence of the Irish Government. There is no obvious plan to either identify all those who lost out unfairly, or to compensate them. We’ll just have to hope that they don’t find out about it, or are happy enough with their second or third choice course that they write it off as a happy mistake.

But how could this have happened? For years, the State Exams Commission has been running the Leaving and Junior Cert exams without a hitch. It’s one of the few institutions of the state that does a great job, year after year.

But Gript understands that this year, they weren’t involved at all. This process was taken inside the Department, run entirely by the Minister and her civil servants, under a cloud of secrecy. And they made an unbelievable mess of it.

There was no effort, it seems, to run simulations of the code before the actual results were imputed. There clearly was no extensive checking of the results versus the raw data.

One in five students were affected. If they had sampled even 100 results at random, statistically they should have found around 20 errors and noticed the problem. Clearly, this was too much like hard work.

Anyway, it won’t matter. Nobody will be held accountable, because the Government can’t afford the resignation, and civil servants can never be blamed for anything.

We’ll just have to live with it, as usual.

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