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Some Leaving Cert students may have to defer year at college over grading mistake

Coding errors in the Leaving Cert exams impacted 7,200 grades, Minister for Education Norma Foley confirmed yesterday

Cate McCurry, Press Association

A number of Leaving Cert students may be forced to defer their year at college over the mistakes found in the calculated grades system.

Up to 1,000 extra college places could be needed after coding errors were discovered in the Leaving Cert exams grading system, but Minister for Education Norma Foley said that number was "just an estimate".

The extra college places could cost an extra 10 million euro.

The scramble to find the extra college places comes on top of the additional 2,000 places made available to students this year.

It emerged on Wednesday that two computer coding errors left some 6,500 students with at least one grade lower than they should have received last month.

The minister apologised to students, saying it should not have happened.

She said that further checks are taking place to see if any further errors have occurred.

Asked about the 1,000 students who may have lost out on their preferred college place, Ms Foley said: "That is just an estimate at this stage. I want to acknowledge that Mr (Simon) Harris and my own department will work hand-in-hand to do all we possibly can to ensure all students who are to get an upgraded offer will get that offer and the maximum number is going to be able to follow that up this academic year.

"There may well be a number of people who have to defer but it's very early to make that call.

"We have to acknowledge that huge efforts were already made this year to make extra places available - there is absolute intention from all involved.

"I have confidence we will achieve that to the absolute limit."

Ms Foley also defended her decision not to make all of her Cabinet colleagues aware of the mistake, saying it was "important to know exactly what was involved".

She told RTÉ Morning Ireland: "It's important to note that when the (Education Department) Secretary General informed me about the error, at that point that is all I knew. How many students it impacted, what impact it would have overall I did not know.

"It was important to know exactly what was involved.

"The most important people in this are the students. They are my principal concern.

"It was important to get clarity on how many students that would impact overall and we immediately began that process."

Ms Foley is to make a statement abut the errors to the Dail at around 1.30pm today.

The calculated grades system involved 50,000 lines of computer code carried out by external contractor Polymetrika.

A total of 160,000 euros has been spent on the contract for the company running the system. The original envisaged expenditure was 75,000 euros.

The errors have been widely criticised by opposition parties, with many describing it as the "latest cock-up" for Leaving Cert students.

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