Higher level As down in key subjects as students opt for tougher papers

Project Maths still boosting results, with 1,100 extra students gaining bonus points

Mark Berney at Gorey Community College, Co Wexford, with his mother Nicky Deacon, holding a copy of his Leaving Cert results with 9 A1s last year. Photograph: Julien Behal

Mark Berney at Gorey Community College, Co Wexford, with his mother Nicky Deacon, holding a copy of his Leaving Cert results with 9 A1s last year. Photograph: Julien Behal


The proportion of Leaving Cert students getting As at higher level are down across all the major subjects this year. However, the trend is driven largely by more people opting for the tougher papers, especially maths, with the lure of bonus points.

The proportion of As in higher level maths was down from 11.2 per cent to 10.2 per cent, and the proportion of As, Bs and Cs collectively down from 73.2 to 72.6 per cent.

But this is against a backdrop of a surge of 10 per cent in the number sitting higher level maths. In contrast, the number sitting ordinary level maths rose by 0.8 per cent.

A similar pattern was seen across major subjects, with the number of As in Irish, English, biology and physics all down at higher level but amid an upward shift of students moving up from ordinary level.

A total of 56,990 students sat the Leaving Cert this year, an increase of 2.4 per cent on 2013. Some 54,025 candidates followed the Leaving Cert (Established) programme, including 15,274 (26.8 per cent) who did Leaving Cert Vocational. A further 2,965 (5.2 per cent) studied Leaving Cert Applied.

This year, one student got nine A1s, while 13 students walked away with eight A1s. In total, 10,723 students (20 per cent) secured at least one A1; this includes 5,870 students who got an A1 in just one subject.

While results in higher level maths are down on average, close to 1,100 extra students get the 25 bonus points for passing the exam this year. Results at ordinary level were up significantly – bearing out the impact of Project Maths.

The proportion of students getting As in ordinary level maths was up from 5.4 per cent to 6.8 per cent, and the proportion of As, Bs and Cs collectively was up from 64.3 per cent to 66.7 per cent.

An added factor driving up these results was the high number of students who dropped to ordinary level, having initially declared for higher maths. Some 17,065 students had registered to sit higher level maths but 2,739 – or 16 per cent – opted for the ordinary paper on the day.

Irish again proved to be a top subject, with 5.3 per cent scoring A1 at higher level, and 8.9 per cent scoring an A2. Only 0.5 per cent failed the higher level exam.

Students who reported this year’s English papers to be relatively easy – with a proliferation of Seamus Heaney – may be surprised results were down marginally on last year. The proportion of As in higher was down from 9.8 to 9.3 per cent. However, the failure rate was also down from 1.6 per cent to 1.3 per cent.

Every year, a small number of students in Libya sit the Irish Leaving Cert. Despite Libya’s ongoing political upheaval, 49 people sat the papers this year, including 26 girls. This compares with 54 students who sat the exam in 2013.

Most students will today go through the ritual of collecting results at school but they are also available on the State Examination Commission’s site examinations.ie or by phone. CAO offers are made on Monday, and points are expected to be higher for the most popular courses due to the increase in numbers sitting the Leaving Cert, as well as the increase in bonus points.

In a reference to the new Junior Cycle syllabus, which many teachers oppose, Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland president Philip Irwin said it is important the Leaving Cert is externally assessed. “This means each set of results is an objective statement about the interests, abilities, efforts and experiences of a unique individual as he or she progresses to the next stage of life,”

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland, meanwhile, said teachers have shown dedication and innovation in ensuring the continued provision of a first class public education service during cutbacks in education.

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