If thinking of studying Leaving Cert Applied Maths outside of school you need to be aware of this

If you are thinking of studying applied maths or any other Leaving Cert subject that has a project of some sort to be assessed in addition to the final written exam in June, then you need to be aware of the conditions under which the assignment will count for your final grades.

Leaving Certificate Applied Maths is one of those subjects where a significant percentage of the students sitting it did so after studying by themselves, through home schooling or with the help of a private tutor. Up to now this was not a problem. However, with the change in syllabus to be examined for the first time in June 2023, assessment now includes a project that accounts for 20% of the total marks allocated.

Several students have come to me in recent days enquiring about tuition in this subject. While most are aware that there have been changes to the syllabus, they are not aware of the complications the project brings to the assessment process. I am sure the same applies to other subjects which have recent changes to their syllabi. Unfortunately there are likely to be students across the country who put in over a year’s work before finding that they can not get credit for the project. They will only be able to get marks from the 80% allocated to the final written exam in June.

The Department of Education and Skills has issued a document “Applied Mathematics – Guidance to support the completion of the Modelling Project.” If you read carefully through this 20 page document you will find the lines “The report must be the student’s own work. Authentication procedures will be in place to ensure compliance with this requirement”. But no further clarification.

The Department of Education and Skills has issued another 27 page document “Applied Mathematics Curriculum Specification” which contains the same two lines as above. So still no discernable red flag for home schoolers or independent learners.

The Department has finally produced a sample answer book for the project. Under the heading “Authentication” it contains the following paragraphs.

  • The mathematical modelling project and report must be your own individual work – authenticated by yourself, by your teacher and by your school management authority. Authentication is an important part of how the State Examinations Commission ensures fairness to everybody in the assessment of coursework.
  • While you may carry out background research relevant to the brief on your own and/or at home, all other parts of your project and your report must be completed under the supervision of your teacher in accordance with the conditions set down by the State Examinations Commission as outlined in Circulars S69/04 and S68/08, which are available at www.examinations.ie.
  • Your teacher must supervise your completion of both the project and the report. If your teacher cannot confirm that the project and report are your own work, and that you carried out the project and completed the report under your teacher’s supervision, the State Examinations Commission will not accept your report for assessment. In that case, you will forfeit the marks for this component of the examination. Teachers and the authorities of schools are familiar with the detailed requirements to ensure that practical and project work is valid for examination purposes. You should comply fully with all requests that are made by the teacher and the school in order to enable authentication of your work.
  • Responsibility for complying with examination requirements rests with you, the candidate. If the requirements are not followed, your teacher and school will have no choice but to bring this to the attention of the State Examinations Commission.

Section 5 of circular S69/04 states:

All candidates (whether in a recognised school or external) carrying out Practical Coursework associated with any of the subjects outlined in Circular S68/04, on their own or, with private tuition outside a school or centre. As it is not possible to have such work authenticated by a teacher and school principal outside a school setting the Practical Coursework component will not be accepted for assessment.

Circular S6808 says:

The State Examinations Commission will accept Practical Coursework for assessment only
where it has been completed under the following conditions:
• The subject must be timetabled (with timetable available to Commission personnel)
• The school/centre must be available for monitoring by Commission personnel.
• Practical Coursework must be conducted under the supervision of a class teacher with the
work authenticated by the teacher and principal in accordance with this circular.

In March 2017 the State Examinations Commission issued a note that said,

Home-Schooled/Tutored Students liaising with a Recognised Examination Centre
In order to fulfil the requirements for the submission of valid Coursework for assessment, students and their teachers may be able to liaise with a recognised school, such as the school the student previously attended, or other recognised examination centre. Such schools/centres may, at their discretion, facilitate a candidate in completing the Coursework in that school or centre. The SEC accepts such Coursework for assessment provided that the teacher and the school Principal sign-off and verify that the conditions for the completion of valid Coursework have been fulfilled.

Any questions on these arrangements should be directed to the Practicals Section of the SEC at 090-6442746 or
practicals@examinatons.ie .”

On contacting the SEC I was informed that they do not deal directly with students, parents or private tutors. They only deal with the recognised schools.

The bottom line is that if you are thinking of doing Leaving Cert Applied Maths outside the regular school system, then you need the cooperation of the principal and a subject teacher in a recognised school to see if you can come up with a means of satisfying the requirements to have your project assessed for exam purposes. There are no such restrictions in relation to the final written exam in June which accounts for 80% of the total marks that could be allocated.

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