Lead challenge over Leaving Cert grades may be heard next month
Posted on 11th November 2020 at 22:17
The lead case of 20 challenges by Leaving Cert students over the calculated grades process and awarding of college places for 2020 may be heard by the High Court next month.
Before the full hearing of the lead action by Freddie Sherry, who sat his Leaving at Dublin’s Belvedere College, the court has to deal with a number of pre-trial applications.
Those will be heard on November 20th and include a challenge by Mr Sherry to a claim of privilege by the Minister for Education over a memo prepared for the Government concerning grade standardisation.
Mr Justice Charles Meenan, who is case-managing the actions, made directions on Wednesday concerning the hearing of the motions.
The judge stressed to the sides they should not lose sight of the fact some 20 other challenges had been parked pending the outcome of this lead case.
He was anxious to fix a hearing date for the Sherry case as soon as possible and before the end of the law term in late December, he indicated.
Feichín McDonagh SC, with Micheál P. O’Higgins SC and Brendan Hennessy BL, instructed by Ferrys Solicitors, said they too wanted an early hearing. Issues about which his side wanted clarity should have been clarified by the respondents weeks ago but were not specific to the Sherry case, he said.
Earlier, Mr McDonagh said there was an issue about a claim of privilege by the respondents about a memo prepared for the Government and there may be further privilege claims over a limited number of documents.
Affidavits from the respondents had identified certain documents his side wished to inspect but there was an argument whether those were available and/or should be produced for inspection. Other pre-trial issues included an application by the respondents for the court to rule whether his side could rely on a particular affidavit.
Eileen Barrington SC, with Brian Kennedy SC, for the respondents, said, in the context of the full hearing, her side had received four substantive affidavits from the applicant on Monday and needed a minimum two weeks to reply to those.
For reasons including his anxiety to fix a hearing date before the end of this law term, the judge directed the reply be provided by November 19th but said he would consider an application for more time if that deadline could not be met.
In his action, Mr Sherry, of Newtown, Celbridge, Co Kildare, claims a direction by the Minister last August to remove school historical records in the calculated grades process resulted in him being unfairly downgraded by 55 points in his Leaving Cert.
He was “hugely disappointed” his teachers’ estimated CAO points total of 542 for him was reduced to 487 under the process. His first course choice was pharmacy in TCD and he now faced the prospect of sitting the rescheduled Leaving Cert written exams later this month, he said.
He claims the Minister’s direction interfered in the calculated grades process overseen by an independent steering committee was “unlawful”.
The Minister and State deny the claims and maintain there is no reason to believe Mr Sherry would be in an improved position if historical school data was included.
They say students in Belvedere College received, on average, higher scores in 2020 compared to the 2017-19 period and there is no basis for any assertion Mr Sherry would have been treated more favourably in another category of school.
Because the calculated grades process has been completed and CAO offers issued, any attempt to reinstate school historical data would be inappropriate or disproportionate as it would cast doubt on the results of significant numbers of students and their entitlement to college places, they argue.
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