independent

Thursday 13 December 2018

‘I hope no-one else will have to go through what I went through’

Family's relief as Rebecca wins High Court battle and starts college

Rebecca with her revised Leaving Cert results.
Rebecca with her revised Leaving Cert results.
Rebecca at home in Castlebridge with her godmother Elaine Carter, brother Niall, dad Shane, and pet dog, Scruffy.

Brendan Keane

The Wexford student who won her High Court case against the State Examinations Committee (SEC) after her Leaving Certificate points were counted incorrectly has expressed hope that the outcome of her case will prevent anyone else from ever going through what she and her family did over the last four weeks.

Rebecca Carter, from Castlebridge, told this newspaper that the last couple of weeks were an emotional rollercoaster for everyone concerned.

However, when she finally entered UCD yesterday morning to begin her veterinary course, she received a hero's welcome from the Student Union and her fellow classmates who held a banner up welcoming her to the complex.

The reception gave her an emotional high on the back of a tumultuous few weeks.

Originally from Dublin, Ms Carter was four when her parents Anne-Marie and Niall, moved the family to Castlebridge where she attended the local national school. She received her secondary education in Meanscoil Gharman.

Her brother, Shane, is already in college and is in his fourth year studying Business in DCU.

For Ms Carter the aspiration to study veterinary in third level college was almost a given as she has had a life-long love of animals.

'Ever since I was small I've always loved animals and if I had my way, my house would be full of pets,' she said.

'I would have about 17 dogs if I could, but I do have one,' she added.

Admitting she has a particular fondness for small animals she said she's now looking forward to also learning about farm animals on her course and said: 'I don't come from a farming background so I'm really looking forward to that now.'

Ms Carter's ordeal began on August 31, when she first noticed the error in the marks allocated to her.

'If the marks had been added up correctly I would have been ok the first time around,' she said.

Her case was against the SEC's decision not to re-check her results before mid-October which would have cost her a place on her chosen veterinary course at UCD - which decides its student allocation by the end of September.

When the matter first went before the High Court on September 11, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys was told UCD had agreed not to allocate Ms Carter's potential place until September 30, to allow the court to deal with her judicial review of decisions relating to her exam results.

She said she was shocked at first when she discovered the mistake in her results, when she checked them herself, but having talked it over with her parents she thought it would just be a matter of contacting the State Examinations Board (SEC) and the issue would be addressed.

'The Monday after there were some calls back and forth and they said they couldn't rectify it but they did verify there was an error,' she said.

'They said they couldn't rectify it because that would require a qualified examiner,' she added.

'The SEC also said it didn't want to single me out because that would be unfair to other students.'

Ms Carter and her family were shocked at her receiving that response and she said everyone felt it was wrong.

'We just thought that was very unfair because a lot of the appeals they would receive would be in relation to the quality of answers not because of errors like what happened to me,' she said.

'We were all just disgusted at how they didn't do anything,' she added.

'We thought it was unfair and after talking it over we decided then to get legal advice.'

Her solicitor, Eileen McCabe, advised her that she had a very strong case and Ms Carter said no-one could understand the SEC's apparent lack of willingness to help.

She was then advised to take her case to the High Court and said that led to a few very anxious days.

'While we knew we had a strong case we still couldn't be sure that it would go the right way and my parents were so supportive of me,' she said.

She said consideration was given to the potential costs involved if the case was lost and said: 'That was something as a family we sat down and thought about but the barrister and solicitor said the case was really strong.'

The family also decided that the flaws within the system needed to be highlighted because if they weren't then other people might suffer the same fate.

When the case went before the High Court for hearing on Wednesday Ms Carter said it was only five minutes from the end that she knew she had won.

'The barrister had said that particular judge is very hard to read and it was only the last five minutes or so that I knew we had won and my grades would be changed.'

In addition to ruling in her favour Mr Justice Richard Humphreys also recommended that the SEC change its policy so that the appeals process would be completed before the academic year begins.

'I'm hoping that will happen now and that no-one else will have to go through what I went through,' said Ms Carter.

Ms Carter said the period between the two court dates was difficult.

'My family went back to Wexford after the first day and I stayed in Dublin,' she said.

'I was upset after the first day and I had a sick feeling in my stomach but to be honest the second day was just as nerve-wracking,' she added.

When the case was finalised in her favour, and the moment arrived when she knew she had won, Ms Carter said she was overjoyed.

'I was just overjoyed and shocked that it was finally over and that we had won,' she said.

She said she hopes her case will now go some way to ensuring that the flaws in the system are addressed.

'We just realised how much the system is flawed and hopefully now they will review the appeals process and make the necessary changes so that no-one has to go through this again.'

Ms Carter received confirmation that her place on her UCD veterinary course was assured at 2 p.m. on Friday.

'I got the call at 2 p.m. and then I knew I had my place and would be starting in UCD,' she said.

Her long term dream is to one day open her own veterinary practice and having already shown bravery to fight a battle not of her making few would bet against that happening.

Wexford People

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