Leaving Cert: Class of 2023 will have more choices and ‘no cliff edge’ grade drop as pandemic concerns continue

The Leaving Cert class of 2023 can expect additional choice in their exams, but will have to wait and see what grade inflation can be factored into the results.

This will be the fourth year in a row that the disruption caused by the pandemic has affected state exams and their results, and the long-term legacy is far from clear.

As school leavers in 2022 celebrated another year of outstanding grades, Education Minister Norma Foley promised concessions in exams for the coming sixth years.

The additional flexibility and choice will not be as generous as this year, but the Irish Second Tier Students Unions (ISSU) have welcomed the Minister’s decision.

These issues need to be addressed urgently as part of the Leaving Cert reform process

Crucially, Ms Foley also told the students that there would be “no cliff edge and no automatic return to a [pre-pandemic] grade profile.

“As far as the grade profile goes in the future, there will have to be a body of work done by the State Examinations Commission and all the necessary work will take place,” she said.

The higher education sector, which has expressed concern about the impact of the pandemic-
linked to grade inflation on entering university, insists the issue needs to be addressed urgently.

Association of Irish Universities (IUA) Lewis Purser, Director of Learning, Teaching and Academic Affairs, said: “We have had three years of disruption with grade inflation and delayed results from Leaving Cert and it is essential that we return to a level of normality.

“These issues need to be addressed upstream and urgently addressed through the Leaving Cert reform process to avoid overextending the additional issues that have arisen.”

Mr Purser said the inflated grades were designed to solve one problem but created another in the form of more and more third-tier places being awarded by random selection.

“Furthermore, the Leaving Cert does not exist in a vacuum, and the last three years have created significant challenges for cohorts of students seeking to study in Ireland with exam results from other countries and for students Irish wishing to study abroad,” he said. .

Universities fear that the best students, who do not benefit from grade inflation because they are already at the upper end of grades, will face unfair competition, while the weakest students who get a place at college with improved grades may find themselves in trouble.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said keeping the results, overall, at the same level as last year was “an important step”.

Regarding the fight against rating inflation, the spokesperson said it was “a complex issue, particularly given the impact of Covid and which will require careful consideration”.

I acknowledge that the Leaving Certificate and Junior Cycle examination class of 2023 has experienced a disruption in learning at a significant stage

The spokesperson said the matter would remain under review until the Leaving Cert 2022 results are finalized, following the appeal process. Account would also be taken of issues related to access to higher education and other forms of post-school progression.

Concessions are not only being made in the Leaving Cert exams in 2023, there will also be changes in the junior cycle assessments.

Details of the changes, which are in line with what was announced in August 2021 for the 2022 exams – but later expanded – will be communicated to schools next week.

In addition to additional choice in exams, in some cases the adjustments will allow more time to be spent on tuition, for example by reducing preparatory work for practical exams.

Ms Foley said she was “wanted to provide as much clarity and certainty as possible to pupils this week as they begin the school term.

“I recognize that the Leaving Certificate and Junior Cycle examination class of 2023 has experienced significant learning disruption due to the pandemic.”

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