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What can the 2020 Leaving Cert teach us about the best options for the class of 2021?

What can the 2020 Leaving Cert teach us about the best options for the class of 2021?

Sophie Coffey

The uncertainly around Leaving Cert 2021 continues. writers and 6th year students, Sorcha Kennedy and Amy McLoughlin, have already discussed their opinions on the 2021 Leaving Cert; Sorcha favours sitting the traditional exams and Amy wants a choice. Both writers are urging the government to listen to all students and provide options, soon.

But what about the class of 2020? How do students feel about how the 2020 Leaving Cert played out almost a year later? Readers of will remember that Sophie Coffey was our Leaving Cert Diary writer for 2020 and she documented how the Leaving Cert was turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

When it comes to predicted grades vs traditional Leaving Cert Sophie discusses not having a choice in 2020 and what that meant for her…

Been there, done that!

Oh, Leaving Cert 2020! I mean you really couldn’t make this stuff up… except making it up is exactly how my grades were determined! Like virtually everything else that happened in 2020 (and virtually is the key word there), my Leaving Cert did not happen quite as planned. In fact, it did not happen at all and was ultimately cancelled and replaced with predicted grades.

My first choice was always to sit the exams. Unusually this had less to do with a CAO order of preference and everything to do with my personal preference. When it came to academic pursuits, I was far more comfortable in a classroom than on a hockey pitch and my strengths were matched accordingly. Consequently, my wish to sit my papers was attached entirely to a desire to prove myself, to see what results I could achieve.

My results didn’t reflect my abilities

The results on my calculated grades portal do not feel like my grades in the way that I always envisaged they would. I put huge effort into my English in particular in the hopes of achieving that coveted H1. The result I received was in fact a H1, but the pride that I imagined would accompany this outcome is slightly dulled.  I know how hard I worked for my points, but each grade is accompanied by a ‘what if?’. In fairness this a refrain that I ascribe to 2020 in general.

I was downgraded

I was one of the lucky students who knew exactly what course I wanted well in advance of any CAO deadlines. This also meant that I knew I needed within the region of 500 points. When it came to the calculated grades outcomes it seemed that some of my grades were a combination of my teachers’ predictions and the government’s contradictions!

My school’s results tend to be high and my year experienced downgrades across the board. For me, this meant my percentages were dropped in five of my seven subjects and my grades were consequently reduced in two. The two downgrades brought me down from the 577 calculated by my teachers, to the 555 points I was awarded. I was incredibly lucky that the 22-point difference did not restrict me from receiving my first choice. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for everyone and the debate over what to include and disregard in the algorithm had contrasting impacts on students.

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I know I was lucky, but others weren’t

I am extraordinarily grateful that my college options were not negatively affected. And I am even more grateful that the process is behind me. My situation is not identical to the position the class of 2021 find themselves in. However, it is vital that we recognise that not even the class of 2021 are in identical circumstances. Disparities in remote support, technology access and so much more exacerbate the student divide.

I don’t know what the solution is. But I do know that the student voices are the ones that need to be heard. And that extends, not just to those who are vocal on Twitter or Instagram, but to every Leaving Cert 2021 student.

The class of 2021 need options. A traditional Leaving Cert does not suit everyone, just like predictive grades doesn’t suit everyone.

What are your feelings on predicted grades vs traditional Leaving Cert? Which would you rather or would you like to see the government come up with something else? Let us know over on our Instagram.

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