Giving students Leaving Cert choice 'not very sensible', principal says

The number of students getting top grades surged during the pandemic
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.37 25 Jan 2022

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Giving students Leaving Cert c...

Giving students Leaving Cert choice 'not very sensible', principal says

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.37 25 Jan 2022

Share this article

One school principal says giving students a choice in this year's Leaving Certificate exams is not a sensible approach.

Colm O'Rourke, principal of St Patrick's School in Meath, says inevitably students will choose accredited grades every year.

He was speaking as there are increasing calls for the class of 2022 to sit a hybrid model once again due to the disruption the students have faced in the past two years.


While Irish universities are warning that the Leaving Cert is facing a "credibility issue" after the number of students getting top grades surged during the pandemic.

The number of students achieving the highest marks - eight H1s - in the State exam increased from just seven in 2019 to 119 last year: an increase of 1,600%.

Mr O'Rourke told The Hard Shoulder grade inflation will soar if a hybrid model continues.

"Anybody who's been involved at the principal or deputy principal level in education - and teachers - would have grave reservations about going into another system with this because of the massive grade inflation that took place.

"The fact that some schools were given preference over others in the model, and the fact that the grade inflation is now out of control.

"So if you keep going the way it is, you'll have a need for 600 points to do any sort of a course in college.

"And all that has done is led to bigger numbers in college... which means that more are going to be dumped out and diluted through the first year in college.

"There is nothing wrong with a bit of pressure on students, it brings out the best in them.

"They should not leave school without doing some form of written paper."

Extra choice in papers

He says if a hybrid model goes ahead, students may not sit any written exam.

"This idea that the students should get their choice on what course the Leaving should take is not a very sensible approach.

"If you're to bring that to it's conclusion, the students will choose accredited grades every year.

"If students don't do a written Leaving Cert this year, they will be leaving school without doing any written paper - there was no Junior Cert.

"And there is no problem to give extra choice in the papers, to take account of the fact that there was disruption and there was a loss of time.

"But the model for the future has to be one where you've a terminal exam which everybody does.

"There is a model there already through things like woodwork, and Irish and history, where there's project work which is marked externally.

"That is the model for the future, it should be a combination of the two.

"But I certainly would not like to see that you would have accredited grades in full brought in for this year".

While Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Sinn Féin spokesperson on education, believes a hybrid model is "absolutely warranted".

"When you speak to students across the country, the story that you get back is very clear.

"That between over two months of school closures last year, and even when they returned they weren't the highest priority.

"The self-isolation of both students and teachers - you could have two spells each between the student and the teacher in a particular subject - and all the disruption that goes with the pandemic.

"It's proving really, really hard for a lot of students to cover the course in a lot of subjects".

He says the same approach as last year should be taken.

"The hybrid model, a choice between written exams and accredited grades, is what is needed.

"That's what we're calling on the Minister to do, we're also calling for an early decision because the uncertainty that's there is very frustrating".

And Deputy Ó Laoghaire says this is the fairest way.

"The motion that we are tabling today is about ensuring that students get that choice.

"I think it is the fairest thing".

Giving students Leaving Cert choice 'not very sensible', principal says

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Main image: Leaving Cert students prepare to sit English Paper One at O'Connell Secondary School in Dublin in 2015. Picture by: Sam Boal/

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