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Significant jump in CAO points expected despite increase of 2,000 places

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Higher Education Minister Simon Harris added: "Young people have been incredible during this pandemic"

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris added: "Young people have been incredible during this pandemic"

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris added: "Young people have been incredible during this pandemic"

A significant jump in CAO points is expected across the board today as the first round of college offers are released.

Despite a record number of places being made available in CAO Round One, there will be disappointment for many students.

Even CAO applicants who have achieved at the highest level in the Leaving Cert may miss their course of choice.

Every year there are students who lose out on a place by as little as one point out of the 625 on the CAO scale - but this year's exceptional arrangements have created new tensions.

The class of 2020 did not sit the June exams because of Covid-19 and were awarded calculated grades instead, which has resulted average grade inflation of 4.4pc.

Inflation

The Government approved about 2,000 extra CAO offers in the past week to adjust for the grade inflation, including 180 in Trinity, 177 in UCD and 150 in DCU.

But it remains to be seen how far they stretch in terms of meeting the expectations of CAO applicants.

The full impact on students who took the Leaving Cert in previous years and sat the full exams, but delayed college, will also become clearer.

The use of calculated grades was unprecedented and presented an enormous challenge across the system.

Education Minister Norma Foley moved to allay fears that students in schools in disadvantaged communities would not be treated fairly.

She removed one key measure from the equation - the use of a school's performance in the Leaving Cert over 2017-19 to help predict what the class of 2020 would have achieved.

However, since the results were released on Monday, there have been complaints from schools and students - notably in fee-charging and 'grind school' sectors - that marks awarded by teachers have been unduly lowered in the process of national standardisation.

One Dublin school is urging the Government to broaden the grounds for appealing the results, claiming the calculated grades system has "serious flaws".

The Institute of Education in Dublin, which had more than 800 students doing the Leaving Cert this year, said nearly all of its pupils (96pc) had a grade reduced.

Overall, 44pc of the grades awarded by the Institute's teachers were cut.

Principal Yvonne O'Toole said the school hired expert data analysis from Krisolis, a leading analytics company, which found that the methodology used by the Department of Education had "serious flaws".

"It has been widely reported that 17pc of grades nationally were changed.

"We have calculated that had the change to our student grades been limited to 17pc, then the resulting average decrease in points would have been 11 points.

"But in fact, our students have seen on average a 30 points drop, with some as high as a 77 points drop.

Challenged

"Our student body has been significantly penalised by the calculated grades process," Ms O'Toole said.

She has written to the Taoiseach and relevant ministers seeking an appeals system that allows the calculated grades awarded to be challenged.

First-round college offers will be made today and education experts said there was no way to predict how much points may increase by.

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris this week confirmed an additional 800 places would be made available, on top of the 1,250 places already promised.

Medicine, nursing and business are where intake is expected to be expanded.

These places were introduced by the Government in an attempt to prevent disappointment - but whether it will go far enough remains to be seen.