Sheepish over lack of exam scapegoats

5th July 1996 at 01:00
The results of an inquiry into missing art work left much to be desired, reports John Walshe. Niamh Bhreathnach, the Irish education minister, has announced a series of measures aimed at restoring public confidence in the state's exams system following some embarrassing gaffes.

Most recently, engineering project work destined for her ministry fell off a lorry and almost rolled into a bog. More serious, however, were the 50 pieces of art work that went missing last year and are now the subject of a major investigation by consultants Price Waterhouse.

The Price Waterhouse report was finally presented last week to members of both Houses of Parliament but was not officially published. This was at the insistence of the consultants who feared they would be embroiled in legal action by individuals who could be identified in the report.

This condition infuriated trade unions who had been promised copies of the report in advance and they boycotted a planned briefing meeting in the ministry as a protest. Journalists were none too happy either and had to hang around the lobby of the Oireachtas (Parliament) hoping to cadge a copy from some passing parliamentarian.

The consultants concluded that there was no single cause for what went wrong and instead attributed it to a succession of human, procedural and computer errors.

"Misunderstandings and failed communications" were partly to blame for the fact that the appeals procedure failed to spot that something was seriously wrong. A number of key documents were missing which might have explained what happened, but the consultants concluded that there was no evidence of concealment or destruction of these documents.

The consultants made 100 detailed recommendations for improvement and some have already been implemented by the minister for this year's state exams.

To add to the minister's woes, an error appeared in this year's maths paper in the Leaving Certificate in which students were asked about a triangle with 184 degrees.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now