01 September, 2020 – Minister Foley announces details of Calculated Grades model for Leaving Certificate 2020 and Minister Harris confirms the provision of 1,250 additional places in certain high-demand programmes in higher education institutions

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD has today, Tuesday 1 September, announced further details of the Calculated Grades model for Leaving Certificate 2020 and Minister for Further and Higher Education Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD confirmed 1,250 additional higher education places to be offered on certain high-demand courses for the academic year 2020/21.

The announcement came following a Government decision on proposals put forward by Minister Foley to amend the national standardisation process which forms part of the Calculated Grades model.

Under the Calculated Grades model, estimated marks from schools will be adjusted, as planned, to ensure that a consistent standard is applied across schools throughout the country, when judging the performance of students. The change introduced by Minister Foley removes the use of school-by-school historical data in the standardisation model. This places a greater emphasis on the estimated marks provided by schools to individual students. The change was driven by the Minister to ensure equity and fairness in the process.

Minister Harris received Government approval for an increase of 1,250 in the overall number of CAO places offered on certain high-demand courses in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) for the academic year 2020/21.

These places are additional to the 1,415 additional places in key skills areas under Pillar 2 of the Human Capital Initiative that have already been announced to come on stream this year.

Minister Foley said: “The Government’s decisions today will provide additional reassurances to Leaving Certificate 2020 students that their unique situation has been understood and treated fairly.

“Equity and fairness must be at the heart of everything we do as a society. From my first day as Minister for Education I have been determined that in this extraordinary year, the system in place to mark students’ achievements of their years in post-primary education would be the fairest possible system under these challenging safeguards.

“While the Irish Calculated Grades model had inherent safeguards that marked it as more equitable than those that were used in other jurisdictions, I felt we could do more to assure our students of the fairness of our system.

“I have considered the effects and impacts of the standardisation model we are using, the importance of ensuring that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are not treated unfairly and the experiences in other jurisdictions in this regard.

“The Government has supported my recommendation to achieve this objective. The standardisation model used in the Calculated Grades system will not include data on how a school has historically performed at Leaving Certificate.

“The national standardisation process that we have put in place will ensure consistency of approach across schools, so that no student will be unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged.

“Taking out the school-by-school historical data from the standardisation process removes any risk that a Leaving Certificate student’s results can be impacted by the performance of Leaving Certificate classes in his or her school in previous years. Your school will not determine the results that you get through standardisation this year.

“Although the process is still being run, the preliminary data indicates that there need be no concern about students being unfairly disadvantaged by the process. This is the fairest approach and the right approach.

“I am pleased that we have taken the time to get this right, and learned from others, and listened to the concerns of students. I am also grateful to Minister Harris for our collaborative approach to providing greater access to higher education for our students.”

The matter was discussed at a meeting of the stakeholder advisory group this morning which includes representatives of students, parents, teachers, school leadership and management bodies, the State Examinations Commission, the National Educational Psychological Service, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the Department.

Minister Harris said: “I am delighted to have the support of my cabinet colleagues to provide an additional 1,250 places in our universities and institutes of technology, in a diverse range of high-demand courses as part of a package of measures to support those applying to college in 2020.

“Providing more places on high-demand courses gives us scope to ease anxiety, reduce uncertainty and demonstrate the ability of the education system to respond to student concerns.

“The extra places are focused on high-demand programmes that traditionally attract students across a range of CAO points levels, and this will a have a cascade effect, creating greater capacity in lower demand courses.

“I am delighted that the higher education system has responded so willingly and with such positivity to the requirement to provide additional places in 2020 and I thank colleagues across the sector for their willingness to respond.

“I know that some options usually open to school leavers, such as such travel and alternative experiences, will be more restricted than in the past. Across the higher and further education system there are more choices and options than ever before for our Leaving Certificate students.

“There is excellent guidance and career planning support to help you define your path. The most obvious route is never the only route and is not always the best route, and studying something in an area of interest to you and discovering more about something you enjoy will always lead to new opportunities.”

Minister Foley also noted: “I also want to assure students that when they get their results on 7 September, they will have access to the usual range of supports and information available on results day. I have asked your schools to put in place and communicate directly to you arrangements measures to guidance support either in the school, with access at a particular time to accommodate social distancing, or via telephone.

“The Department also supports the helpline provided by the National Parents Council Post-Primary and the Institute of Guidance Counsellors and details on that will be provided to students.”


Notes to Editors

Calculated Grades for Leaving Certificate 2020


Information Note

Decision to postpone Leaving Certificate Exams

On 8 May 2020, Government decided to postpone the Leaving Certificate Exams. This was because it was not possible to run traditional exams in July and August whilst following the health advice. In addition, shortened or severely restricted exams would not have been valid or reliable; a significant proportion of candidates would have been unable to sit any examinations because of confirmed or suspected personal illness, the need to self-isolate and family bereavement and there were concerns about the mental health and wellbeing of already vulnerable Leaving Certificate students at this time.

Calculated Grades Model

Government also offered students the option to receive a set of Calculated Grades based on schools’ predictions as to what their students would be likely to receive in the Leaving Certificate. Calculated grades would use schools’ estimates of students’ marks and their rankings in their classes and then rely on a process of standardisation to ensure equity of treatment for students across schools and the maintenance of comparable standards with Leaving Certificate outcomes in the past and future years and with the postponed Leaving Certificate 2020 Exams.

It was decided that the data that would be used in the standardisation process for each subject and each level (Higher, Ordinary and Foundation) would be as follows:

  • Estimated marksand rankings of students supplied by schools following alignment and oversight by principal – the main raw data for the calculated grades
  • A prediction of the likely Leaving Certificate performance of the class of 2020 in each school based on the performance of those students when they sat the Junior Cycle examinations (regression data) – to help construct a likely range of performance of this group of students in this year
  • The historic pattern of results at Leaving Certificate (the “historic school distribution”) in each subject and at each level on a school-by-school basis (based on last three years of Leaving Certificate results)
  • The historic pattern of results at Leaving Certificate nationally (the “historic national standard or distribution”– to assist in maintenance of long-term standards

  Standardisation is needed to ensure all students are treated equitably

  • Different schools took different approaches to estimating marksand rank orders, which varied between schools and between subjects within schools. Not standardising the marks would lead to unfairness to students and to schools who engaged most faithfully with the system
  • Standardisation can ensure a degree of comparability for Leaving Certificate candidates of 2019, 2020 and 2021. Students receiving calculated grades will be competing for places in Higher Education and Further Education and Training with candidates who sat the Leaving Certificate in 2019 and who will sit examinations in 2020 and 2021. This must be balanced with fairness to students affected by the exceptional circumstances of this year and public confidence in the Calculated Grades Model
  • Standardisation prevents excessive and uncontrolled grade inflation. Teachers’/schools’ estimated marks are inflated this year and this was anticipated. For example, aggregated across all subjects, the percentage of Grade 1s at Higher Level in teacher estimates more than doubled in many subjects, tripled in some subjects, compared to previous years. Such uncontrolled growth in scores is not credible in one school year
  • Allowing unrealistically high estimates from some schools would also mean the CAO points would rise significantly. Students from schools that had not inflated marks would be at a severe disadvantage vis-à-vis students from other schools

  A distinctive model of standardisation that incorporates important safeguards  

There are distinctive aspects to Ireland’s standardisation model which are particularly important

  • We have given primacy to the teachers’ estimated marks. The standardisation model takes as its starting point the teachers’ estimates marks, not the historical patterns of achievement in each school used as starting point in the UK
  • We collected quite precise information about student achievement. We collected estimated percentage marks for each subject for each student from schools, not estimated grades. This allows us to adjust much more carefully how we combine different sources of information that we have concerning students’ performance
  • We built in systems that are able to identify and fairly accredit the learning of an exceptional student, irrespective of the school that he or she attended. A student’s performance cannot be constrained by historical school performance if data from the teacher shows the student may be exceptional
  • We have developed the model over time; applied each version to the data

–        Ensuring that each version of the standardisation process would work fairly for all subjects and at each level (Higher, Ordinary, Foundation)

–        Checking to ensure that each version of the model did not have unintended consequences

–        Adjusting model each time to ensure that results were fulfilling commitments to fairness and equity

–        Monitoring carefully the extent to which student scores were moderated up and down

–        Learning from emerging evidence in other jurisdictions, including learning about public and student confidence in the system

  • We have examined how the system would work if historic school-by-school data was removed from the calculations. We decided to remove this data
  • We have also lessened the importance placed on the historic national standards

We have adopted an approach that:

  • Has the teachers’ estimated marks at its core
  • Preserves the school’s placing of students relative to each other (ranking)
  • Does not constrain the performance of a student to the average performance of the school; This ensures students can be confident there is no risk of “unfair profiling” or  “post-code lottery”
  • Identifies and fairly rewards stronger performing students in traditionally lower performing schools, provided schools have identified such candidates in their data
  • Recognises the exceptional circumstances experienced by students in 2020
  • Prioritises fairness for the students of 2020 over eliminating grade inflation. The model allows for some grade inflation to occur but seeks to have results broadly comparable across schools
  • Does not show any negative effects against disadvantaged schools


  • Adopting the preferred standardisation model, the average reduction in student marks following standardisation 0.8% in DEIS schools while the reduction is 1.3% in non-DEIS schools.
  • In terms of grades across all levels (Higher, Ordinary Common and Foundation Levels), 79.3% of student grades remain unchanged as a result of standardisation. In DEIS schools 81.2% of grades are unchanged while in non-DEIS schools the figure is 79.4%.
  • 3.9% of grades increase as a result of standardisation, with the increase being 5% in DEIS schools as compared to a 3.7% increase in non-DEIS schools.
  • 16.8% of all grades are reduced by one grade as a result of standardisation, with 13.6% grades being decreased by one grade in DEIS schools compared to 16.8% in non-DEIS schools.
  • 0.1% of all grades are reduced by two or more grades, with the figure being 0.1% in DEIS schools and 0.1% in non-DEIS schools.

In summary, this means that–

  • The average reduction in school marks as a result of standardisation is less in DEIS schools compared in non-DEIS schools.
  • A very large proportion of school-estimated grades are unchanged following standardisation
  • A small proportion of school-estimated grades are increased by standardisation. There are higher increases in DEIS schools versus non-DEIS schools
  • Also, the proportion of grades increased and the proportion of grades unchanged in DEIS schools exceeds those proportions in non-DEIS schools (combined, this is 86.2% in DEIS schools versus 83.1% in non-DEIS schools).
  • A smaller proportion of grades are reduced in DEIS schools compared to non-DEIS schools.


  • 1 September:    Finalise standardisation process subject to government approval
  • 1 September:   Finalise plans for increased places in HE and FE at government
  • 7 September:   Issue of results to students and schools – available on student portal
  • 7 September:   UCAS offers received by students
  • 11 September:  CAO offers received by students
  • 14 September:  Appeals process opens
  • 14 September:  Each student may gain access to the school’s estimated mark and calculated marks from Calculated Grades Executive Office

Key Dates

7th Sept: Calculated Grades Available from 9am.
11th Sept: C.A.O. Round 1 offers Available from 2pm 14th Sept.
Appeal process opens for calculated grades 14th Sept.
Available Place facility will open from 12pm 16th Sept.
 Acceptance of CAO round 1 offers must be returned by 3pm 17th Sept.
 Date for close of appeal of grade 23rd Sept.
C.A.O. Round 2 offers from 10am 25th Sept.
 Acceptance of Round 2 offers must be returned by 12pm.
 Late Sept./Early Oct. College registration/start vary depending on college.
 1st Oct: C.A.O. Round 3 offers from 10am.
 6th Oct: Acceptance of Round 3 offers must be returned by 3pm.
 8th Oct: C.A.O. Round 4 offers from 10am.
13th Oct: Acceptance of Round 4 offers must be returned by 3pm.
16th Nov: Written Leaving Certificate commences.

Calculated Grades

Available from 9am on 7th September from at the Student Portal on education.ie.
❑ These grades are OFFERINGS from the Department who are attempting to keep everything as ‘on schedule’ as possible during the global pandemic. 
❑ Grades have been through a rigorous statistical process (similar to what happens every year)
❑ Calculated grades can be used to allow you to progress to any pathway, just like any given years
❑ Teachers may have given different grades than what is finally offered to students.
❑ If students are not happy with grades, there are several options/choices they can make. 
❑ If students choose to sit one or more of the later examinations, the final Leaving Certificate will integrate the higher of the grades.
❑ These grades are provided in time for students who have applied through the CAO and the UK’s UCAS for college entry for the 2020/2021 academic year.
 ❑ Just like in every year, we do not know on the day of results what the points will be for certain courses. This fact is key for managing student reactions

 ❑ Information on the process of calculated grades available.

CAO Offers will be available by email/text only I.e. no posted offers. 
11th Sept at 2pm : C.A.O. Round 1 offers
16th Sept at 3pm: Acceptance of CAO round 1 offers must be returned.
18th Sept: Vacant places published on CAO.
 23rd Sept: C.A.O. Round 2 offers ❑ 25th Sept: Acceptance of Round 2 offers.
 1st Oct: C.A.O. Round 3 offers.
 6th Oct: Acceptance of Round 3 offers.
 8th Oct: C.A.O. Round 4 offers.
13th Oct: Acceptance of Round 4 offers ❑ HEAR/DARE information available at accesscollege.ie 
Deferral procedures remain the same (consult CAO handbook) 

Sitting exams in Nov

Sitting exams in November

Information will become available as time progresses.
This is an option designed to accommodate students unsatisfied with grades.
Students can sit one or all subjects, at their discretion.
The higher of the grades will be taken.
Start date: November 16th evenings and weekends.
How to apply to sit the exams?
Written assessment only following the ‘normal’ layout.
Some subjects will include assessment of work submitted prior to school closures.
Impact on CAO: If grades increase, students will be provided with updated CAO offer and start in Autunm 2021.  No impact on fees or student grant.

CAO 2020 – Careers Portal.ie

If you are unsure about your course choices, you can make amendments to your application from May 5th, when the Change of Mind Facility Opens. With the re-scheduling of the Leaving Certificate examinations this year, it is likely that the closing date for the CAO Change of Mind facility will be moved forward from the usual date (July 1st) to a week after the final exam has finished in August. We will confirm the exact closing date as more information becomes available from the CAO.

As a CAO applicant, you will be able to register change of course choices online, free of charge. If you make changes online, an acknowledgement will be sent to the e-mail address you used at the application stage.

There is no fee for using the Change of Mind facility, and there is no limit to the number of changes you can make up to the closing date. However, there are some exceptions and restrictions which are mentioned further down.

Make sure you read the following before Making Changes:

  • If you submit a Change of Mind it cancels and supersedes all the previous course choices in any category in which changes are made. However, choices in the two categories (Level 8 and Level 7/6) are considered to be completely separate from each other for this purpose e.g. a change of Level 8 course choices will not affect Level 7/6 choices.
  • If you do not wish to change the courses in one category, do not submit a change. Your original courses in that category will remain unchanged.
  • Do not mix courses from different categories (Level 8 and Level 7/6) and make sure to list all of your course choices for the particular category which you change.
  • You may enter courses which did not appear on your original application, except for Restricted Application Courses/Restricted Categories of applicant (see page 3 of the CAO handbook and details below)

Restricted courses

You cannot enter restricted courses as a Change of Mind.

Exception! You may be permitted to introduce a restricted course which shares the exact same assessment procedures with a course you had applied for by the 1st of February. Please note that you should consult with the Admissions Office of the relevant third level institution before introducing such a course.

Mature applicants

Some third level institutions may impose restrictions on Change of Mind for mature applicants. These are generally the same as for late applications.

Mature applicants should make enquiries from individual Admissions Offices before introducing new course choices after 1st February.

Change of Mind confirmation

If you submit a Change of Mind you will receive an e-mail to confirm your new course choices. You can also log in to your account via the My Application facility to confirm that all of your details are recorded completely and correctly.

It is very important that your course choices are absolutely correct. If you are going to be absent at the time when the revised statement is due, you must arrange for someone to check that the contents are correct and accurately reflect your wishes.

Errors and Omissions

Do not wait until August to notify CAO of errors or omissions as it will be too late to do anything about them at that stage. If you notice any issues, contact the CAO straight away. See contact details for CAO here.


For all College updates please go to www.careersportal.ie


The Central Applications Office is responsible for processing applications and recording acceptances to Higher Education Institutions.  Please click on the link below for application deadlines and  information on courses.

Go to www.cao.ie



I would like to invite you to an information talk for parents/guardians and students on the ‘ CAO Process’ on Wednesday 27th November 2019 at 6:30pm at Drogheda Grammar School.   You may already be familiar with the CAO process and indeed it can be downloaded on the CAO website. 

The CAO System – Summary

  • The institutions in the CAO (handbook)
  • Entry requirements
  • The points system and new grading system
  • Order of preference of courses
  • The application fee
  • Important dates to remember
  • The change of mind process
  • The offers stage
  • Deferring an offer
  • CAO Parent’s Guide – online

CAO Requirements

A student may have to fulfil 3 types of requirements to be eligible for a college course

  1. The College matriculation requirements
  2. The specific course requirement
  3. The points requirement – calculated from a total of the best six Leaving Certificate results

(See www.qualifax.ie for all the above)

Important Dates – 2020

20th January 2020 – 5.15 pm Deadline for online discounted rate of €25.  After this date €40
1st February 2020- 5.15 pm

Normal Application Closing date

Restricted Application must be included by this date.  Each applicant is allotted a CAO number on application

1st May 2020 – 5.15 pm Late Application Closing date
5th May 2020

Online change of mind facility becomes available

Applicants may alter their applications as many times as they wish

By end of May All applicants will receive a Statement of Application Record
1st July 2020- 5.15 pm Closing date for Change of mind