Leaving Cert results: Concern over maths as over 4,000 fail papers

High numbers of third-level applicants are expected to drive up college points

Leaving Cert, Junior Cert, State Examinations, concentration, exam centre

File photo of the exam centre in Belvedere College SJ, Dublin, on the first day of the Leaving Certificate | Image: RollingNews.ie

The almost 58,500 students who sat this year’s Leaving Cert are getting their results today, with high numbers of college applicants expected to drive up points for many courses.

There is some concern over maths results, with more than 4,000 candidates failing the exam across the three levels.

Bonus points for higher level maths led to an estimated 28% of students taking the more challenging paper — up from just 16% in 2011. 

There was a 9% failure rate for ordinary level maths, while around 5% of higher level students failed to get the D grade need for extra points.

There has also been a dramatic drop in the number of A1s awarded. 

Nobody in the country got a perfect score of nine A1s, but six pupils did rack up eight A1s each. The number getting seven A1s has halved since last year.

Carl O'Brien, Irish Times Education Editor, told Newstalk Breakfast there has been no major fluctuations in grades across most subjects - and there is never a "wild swing" as marking schemes are adjusted if a major aberration is detected.

However, he explained that the maths figures are a bit of a surprise. "The new figures show that a record number of people sat the higher paper," he said. "The grades in the higher level paper have stabilised... so that's good news.

"There is concern with the ordinary level paper. We've seen the failure rate more than double from 3% to 9%," he added.

Education Minister Richard Bruton congratulated those receiving their results, saying: “Today is a very important watershed in the lives of so many young people as their time in school draws to an end and the next phase of their lives begin.

"As thousands of students receive their results today it is a time to celebrate the culmination of a hugely formative period in their lives, together with their family, friends and teachers who have helped them along the road," he added.

He has also encouraged students to consider pathways like apprenticeships and traineeships.

Minister Bruton told Newstalk Breakfast there have been some changes that have impacted performances at ordinary level.

"We will need to look at that," he said. "I know that there were some difficulties in algebra and trigonometry, and I think [...] that we need to make sure the syllabus and curriculum is reflecting the needs of students," he said.

According to the Central Applications Office (CAO), a total of 80,887 people are vying for third-level places - a record number.

First-round offers will be available on the CAO website from 6am on Monday morning, once all grades have been processed.

Provisional figures show an increase in the number of first-preference applications for level eight courses relating to nursing (9%), engineering and technology (7%), and business and administration (6%).

Arts and social science remain the most popular subject, drawing nearly a quarter of all first preferences. 

Roisin Hackett is congratulated by her friend Rachel Taylor in Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin this morning | Image: RollingNews.ie

Those receiving their results today include the over 2,700 who took part in the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA), a practical alternative to the mainstream curriculum. 

Graduates from the LCA programme receive a single award at one of three levels, on the basis of credits accumulated over a two-year cycle. 

A further 14,637 students (26% of all candidates) followed the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP), which includes work experience and enterprise modules, as well as academic subjects. 

Grades in most subjects are “broadly in line” with those of previous years, according to the State Examination Commission.

Students will be able to collect results from their school or access them online at www.examinations.ie from midday.

What next?

The deadline to accept round one offers in 5.15pm on August 29th.

Round two offers will be available online from 6am on September 1st and must be responded to no later than 5.15pm on September 7th.

All students can apply to view one or more of their marked exam papers, for free, to see how the marking scheme was applied to their work.

This can help decide whether or not to lodge an appeal against their results.

Marking schemes for all subjects will be made available to schools and also published on www.examinations.ie.

Applications to view scripts must be submitted before August 23rd. Viewing will then take place in schools on September 2nd and 3rd.

All appeal applications must be with the State Examinations Commission by 5pm on September 7th.

A helpline facility operated by the National Parents’ Council will be operating from early this morning to provide information and advice to students and parents. The helpline can be reached on 1800 265 165.