It is a fact that yesterday, a significant number of Irish students were awarded results in their leaving certs that their own teachers did not think they deserved. To some extent, this happens every year. Yours truly, for example, fluked a B1 in biology that was thoroughly undeserved, and passed higher level maths when honestly, failure would have been just.
But in those other years, the undeserved results usually come from sitting an exam. Maybe (as in my case with biology) the paper just suited you. Maybe it didn’t, or maybe you had a bad day. But except in the rare case where someone doesn’t tot up the marks correctly, the process is usually fair.
Yesterday’s process was completely unfair, and in a few days time, students and their parents are going to realise it. In fact, according to the Irish Times, it’s already begun:
Lawyers have reported a surge in queries from parents and teaching staff in fee-charging and grind schools who feel they lost out under the new calculated grades process.
Many believe the decision to drop “school profiling” – a controversial measure which took into account a school’s past performance in the Leaving Cert – from the calculated grades process ended up penalising high-achieving schools.
Minister for Education Norma Foley, however, has said that the calculated grades process has been “blind” to socio-economic status of schools and that all students were treated fairly and equitably.
One legal source, who declined to be named, said parents and teachers from fee-paying schools in particular were surprised at the relatively low proportion of top grades in many cases at a time when there was significant grade inflation in results nationally.
“Fee charging and grind schools” paints a picture of course, and you’re supposed to see that and immediately take sides, and grumble on facebook about entitled rich kids and their infuriating parents, and so on. But it’s not going to only be private schools. And even if it was, it’s still a problem.
On Friday, the CAO offers for college courses will come out. Some students, as happens every year, will miss out on their first choice.
And then next Monday, some of those students will find out that the H2 in maths that cost them a place in their course was actually a H1, according to their teacher, but that the Government’s “model” marked them down.
Meanwhile, somebody else may have taken their place in that course on the basis of a H1 in Maths that wasn’t awarded by their teacher at all, but by the Government’s model.
Ask yourself: Is that fair? If it was your son or daughter, would you consider it fair?
What’s more: What is the defence of the Government going to be if a decent number of these people do take legal action? Their teachers, after all, who’ve known them for six years, were asked to provide a grade, and provided them with a H1, or a H2. Then the state employed a statistician, who has never met the student, and decided to take the grade down, costing them a career in their chosen field. How can that be justified legally, let alone morally?
In many ways, yesterday was the calm before the storm. Students do not yet know whether they were in the group that had their grades taken down, or whether they will get their course on Friday.
Next week, when they can compare their results to what their teachers gave them, will be when all hell breaks loose, if it does.
It really should. Because yesterday’s results were many things – but they were not, by any standard, fair.