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Leaving Cert results 2023: Irish students get inflated grades for a third year

Leaving Certificate grades were artificially inflated by an average of almost 8% in order to bring them in line with results seen in 2022. Almost 62,000 students across the country received their results this morning, with tens of thousands of the grades adjusted upwards by exam authorities.

Results were issued on the Candidate Self Service Portal (CCSP) at 10am this morning, with the State Examinations Commission (SEC) confirming it would apply the same level of adjustments as made in 2022.

The adjustment to grades comes despite a promise from Education Minister Norma Foley that this year’s results would be lower than last years. However, Minister Foley, in July, directed State exam authorities to ensure the class of 2023’s grades would be “no lower” on aggregate than last year’s.

Following this direction, 2023’s post-marking adjustment is believed to be significantly higher than that applied to last year’s results. It has been reported that this improved the grades of 71 per cent of students.

Today, the Minister defended the decision to inflate grades, as she congratulated all of those receiving results.

A spokesman for Norma Foley said that the decision to keep grade inflation at the same level seen in 2022 was directed at “bringing fairness to students” who would have been new to sitting a State exam after the cancellation of Junior Cycle exams during the Covid-19 era. The Minister said that grades would reduce “in stages” over the next number of years.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, this morning, Ms Foley said this year’s Leaving Cert students had faced “significant challenges over the past couple of years”.

“In the interest of fairness to them, I did make the determination that the overall grade profile this year would be similar to that which was achieved last year,” she said.

“It was in the interest of recognising their unique circumstances of a group of students who didn’t sit junior cycle and did have to grapple with the significant amount of remote teaching and learning.”

Regarding when grade inflation will come to an end, Ms Foley said:

“Every group of students are unique and we have to look at their unique circumstances at a given time.

“This particular group were different to the previous group, particularly this group where the students who didn’t have the opportunities at the junior cycle.

“That was an enormously important consideration for me. And next year, students will be different. They would have unique set of circumstances as well.

“So, we will look at each group of students and give them the due consideration that they require.”

The State Examinations Commission said that higher adjustment was needed as this year’s base aggregate results were considerably lower than those of 2022. 

This year’s results matched top grades seen in 2021 and 2022 – which, on average, were roughly 60 points higher than results achieved before Covid. Grades soared during the pandemic, due to factors including teacher-assessed marks.

The decision to keep grades high, however, is set to cause difficulty for universities, who will struggle to select candidates in the most high-demand and high points courses.

High grades here will also serve as a disadvantage for students applying from Northern Ireland and the UK, with A-level results having returned to pre-pandemic norms.

Third level education leaders have expressed concern over the grade inflation, saying it casts doubt on how well students will be able to do at University, amid concern over drop-out rates.

One Career Guidance teacher told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne that those within the education sector expected grades to fall this year.

Donnchadh O Mahony, from Loreto Stephen’s Green in Dublin, said third level institutions have cause for concern, adding that even the students achieving the maximum 625 points are not guaranteed a place on a course, with universities now having to use random selection because of high grades across the board.

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