My son thinks his ‘inflated’ Leaving Cert results will give him an advantage in the CAO points race. Is this true?

Grades will begin to return towards more normal patterns from next year

My son wants to be a primary schoolteacher and, at a stretch, hopes to secure sufficient CAO points in August following his Leaving Cert. He doesn’t seem too worried and says grades are due to begin returning to normal from next year after years of grade inflation. If he misses out, he thinks it will be easier to get a place in 2025 compared to 2024. Is this true?

Your son is perceptive. Leaving Cert grades this year will, on aggregate, be artificially adjusted upwards to match those of recent years on foot of a recent decision by the Minister for Education Norma Foley. She said the move was aimed at ensuring fairness for students whose education was disrupted by Covid.

It means if your son misses out on a place in a high demand course by a small margin in 2024, his chances are likely to improve next year.

This is because he will be in the race for CAO points alongside students whose grades have not been artificially inflated upwards.


What this will look like, exactly, is hard to tell; let me explain:

Firstly, Leaving Cert grades are currently about 7.9 per cent higher on aggregate than pre-Covid times.

Once grades start to deflate from next year onwards, they are likely to fall by an average of one grade per Leaving Cert student each year for four years.

What will that look like? Among those currently securing 500-550 points, after upward adjustment, their CAO points score will eventually settle in the 450-500 range by 2028.

Currently, your son would need to receive about 475-500 points to secure a place in DCU, Mary Immaculate or Marino based on the 2023 entry requirements for primary teaching.

If he misses out this year, points look likely to fall in 2025 – but it is by no means guaranteed. CAO points can fluctuate based on applicant demand and the number of places on offer.

Demographic patterns of recent years have resulted in a steep drop in the numbers of pupils entering and progressing through our primary school system.

A potential surplus of teaching graduates in the past few years has been absorbed through a reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio.

Will pupil-teacher ratios continue to fall and ensure there is plenty of work for teaching graduates? It remains to be seen. How applicants view these trends will influence demand for places and, in turn, CAO points requirements.

What is not in doubt is that your son – and others – will hold a “golden ticket” of artificially inflated grades.

In any given year, about 20 per cent of CAO applicants present Leaving Cert results they achieved from previous years. So, the class of 2024 (and the classes of 2020-2023) will be at an advantage compared to students from future years if they apply for CAO courses from 2025 onwards.