On Thursday it was announced that the release of Leaving Certificate results for the class of 2020 would be delayed until September 7th, three weeks later than expected. CAO offers will take place on September 11th with applications for appeals opening on the 14th.

This delay is expected to impact the start dates for stage 1 third-level courses, including those in UCD, who had planned to begin lectures on September 21st.

In making the announcement, Minister for Education Norma Foley assured students that “the people working on this are taking every precaution to ensure fairness so that students can receive the grades that reflect their work”, and the planned “date of 7 September allows [them] to achieve this”.

Most third-level colleges had already planned for later re-opening dates as a result of COVID-19. However, this latest announcement may result in these dates being pushed back further, particularly for incoming first years.

UCD previously announced that Orientation Week for first years would take place September 14th -18th, with the teaching term commencing on September 21st. They have yet to comment on whether the new release date for Leaving Certificate Results will affect these dates.

There is also the issue of students receiving second round offers and whether this will affect their ability to accept and start their course on time. In relation to this, Minister Foley said: “that would be a matter for third level institutions”.

The Irish Second-Level Student Union (ISSU) has said it is “disappointed” at not being involved in the discussion around the release of the Leaving Certificate results. In a statement on Friday, ISSU voiced its concern for the “negative impact” this announcement would have on ability of some students to “prepare for the transition to the next step in their education,” and that they would be seeking clarification from the Department of Education on a number of concerns.

According to Minister Foley, 61,000 students have applied for Calculated Grades, meaning there were around 450,000 grades to be processed and checked. Any student who is unhappy with their Calculated Grade may appeal and can also opt to take the written examination in that subject, which are set to be held in November.

In May, teachers across 700 schools in Ireland gave estimated class rankings and marks for their 6th year students in each subject. These were then sent onto the Calculated Grades Executive Office, who were tasked with standardising the results, which could mean bringing estimated marks awarded by teachers in line with what would be expected from a particular school, based on that school’s performance over recent years.

Minister Foley said: “This standardisation process at national level is essential for fairness and equity”. She also said that the grade outcomes “need to be reviewed using different demographic characteristics which will include gender and socio-economic status to ensure that the grades are as fair and equitable as possible.” It is unclear how such considerations were previously factored into the marking system.

Director General of the IUA, Jim Miley, today gave a statement on the issue of delayed results impacting term start dates for universities. He reassured students that “Each university will quickly finalise their revised plans based on the delayed date for grades release. Our priority is to ensure that first year students are given the necessary welcome and induction and to ensure the safe return of all students to campus.”

He also recognised the “significant challenges” for students faced with both calculated grades and delayed results this year, noting that “Our resources and expertise are available as always to assist in this regard. We will continue to work with government departments and student representative bodies in order to ensure the best possible outcome for students.”

Sadhbh O’Muirí – Reporter