PICTURES | A very different Leaving Cert results day in Longford schools

Jessica Thompson

Reporter:

Jessica Thompson

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jessica.thompson@longfordleader.ie

It was a very cold and hollow Leaving Cert results day in comparison with previous years as students were forced to forego the celebratory hugs and handshakes with teachers and classmates as they shared the results of the most intense exams of their school careers.

Results were available online from 9am on Monday morning, and students were required to log on to view them, rather than take the traditional trip to school where they could open those brown envelopes with friends, parents or teachers.
But that hasn’t stopped Lanesboro Community College from ensuring students have that outlet to discuss their results with teachers.

In fact, this year’s Leaving Cert class at LCC have been able to make appointments to see their teachers and to discuss their results, with support available from the chaplain and all staff at the school should they need it.

“The results are in line with the expectations we’ve had. They’re very, very good,” said Deputy Principal, Michael Lyons.

“They’re on a trajectory with the results the school has had over the last few years. There are students with A1s, A2s, some with five A1s. And there are students that would’ve come in with difficulties who have performed really well.

“The results this year are as good as any other year. But what’ll tell the tale will be the CAO and the points required for different courses,” he hastened to add.

“I would envision the vast majority of our students will have the points for their chosen course but we’re ready to help and support anybody that needs it.”

This day every year calls into question the potential reformation of the Leaving Certificate Examinations, with many students and teachers of the past speaking up on the need for change to the system.

But now that students have had to go without that milestone rite of passage, Mr Lyons believes that a total reformation would not go down well.

“Most students would say they want the exams. They want that rite of passage. Most kids like the opportunity to show what they’ve learned and to show what they can do,” he explained.

“And I think in years to come, a lot of them might look back and say they would have liked that opportunity.”

It was certainly a very different year for students but no less stressful as so many of them struggled with at-home learning, without face-to-face interaction with teachers, and with the stress of waiting to hear whether they would have to sit exams during Covid-19 or not.

But could this new system be something that is woven into the traditional learning system to create a new structure for students in their senior cycle?

“I wonder if you had a system with continuous assessment and the exams, are you putting more pressure on people?” Mr Lyons mused.

“Are you just adding the extra bit of work to keep you on their toes? There’s already an element of continuous assessment built in at the moment, with projects and oral exams. I wonder what would you do if you deprived people of the chance to sit exams?

“It’s a rite of passage. It’s a chance for them to say ‘I can do that’. I’ve been involved in the Leaving Cert for many years now and it’s hard for the first day or so, but they get into it.

“And they spent two years preparing for it. This is something they work towards for longer than two years and then suddenly they don’t get to do it.

“Students are preparing and working hard for this. So whatever happens in the future, there should be more opportunity for practical elements and an element of learning to be tested, but you can’t really replace the Leaving Cert.”

Monday should have been a day that the school was buzzing with activity but, with Covid-19 restrictions in place and all students back to school under new regulations, it couldn’t quite work out that way.

“It’s a good day for the school; it’s a good day for the teachers and it’s a good day for the students. And the students are coming in to see us themselves. They could make appointments to chat to their teachers,” said Mr Lyons.

“We missed them and we missed the graduation, so hopefully if things settle down, we can celebrate this wonderful achievement of such a great class.

“We’re going to have to find other ways of celebrating and being together because we can’t let go of those moments, otherwise what do we have left? It’s very hollow.”

Meanwhile, in Ballymahon Vocational School, students and teachers were also feeling the absence of that annual Leaving Cert buzz as the hugs and handshakes were replaced by texts and phone calls.

“The students have all accessed the results at home and some of them have been in touch over the phone,” said Principal Brian Higgins.

“Anyone can make contact with us and speak to the guidance counsellor. There is still that support when they need it.”

This year’s Leaving Cert group is Mr Higgins’ first group since he took on the role of principal at the school last December. It has been a challenging first year amid Covid-19 regulations but the results of this year’s class have been spectacular with one student even receiving top marks.

“We have one student who got over 600 points. 12% of our students got more than 500 points and over a third of students got more than 400 points, so there’s a strong cohort of results,” he said.

“Results were particularly high in the sciences, in practical subjects and in languages. They’re close to being in line with results from previous years, with some wavers in some subjects.

“It was a very difficult year but the students took it in their stride. The school was closed since March but the level of online engagement was very strong. They learned a lot in that time and the teachers have learned a lot about working with them and the results this year reflect that.”

It was a Leaving Cert results day like no other for the Class of 2020 at Templemichael College too after nearly six months of school closure and all the uncertainly over the fate of the Leaving Cert Exams.

Leaving Cert students missed out on the usual excitement of coming into the school to share the once in a lifetime experience with their classmates and teachers.

But there was a general feeling of delight in the school, according to Principal Sorcha Nic Dhonnacha, with the majority of students calling up to share good news.

This was also the first year that Templemichael College had a group sitting the Leaving Cert Applied programme with many students achieving a Distinction.

Overall, students and teachers are relatively happy with the way in which the grades were calculated.

Students in Mean Scoil Mhuire were also generally thrilled with their results.

Niamh Cassidy told the Longford Leader that she was “annoyed” that the exams weren’t going ahead.

“And coming up to the results, I was disappointed and worried that I wouldn’t get what I needed but I’m very happy withe the results,” she said.

“And I’m happy to get the option to resit the exams but I won’t be resitting them. I’m hoping to go to Maynooth to study primary school teaching.”

The first round of CAO offers will go out this Friday, as students wait to see how their calculated results will fare out when it comes to their college hopes.