Next week you need to know about . . . State exam season
Wednesday is the first day of the Leaving and Junior Cert examinations, that collective educational endurance event that marks every Irish pupil for life. After all, these exams can make an adult shudder for decades at the memory of the stress and anxiety.
The exams are also guaranteed to throw up a few headlines every year. Who can forget the kerfuffle after the wrong English paper was handed out to students in Drogheda in 2009, creating a logistical nightmare for the State Examinations Commission, the organisation that oversees the exams?
There are 53,789 candidates entered for the Leaving Cert this year, a drop of more than 1,500 on last year’s figures, which should ease slightly the college-entry requirements for school-leavers. The number of pupils sitting the Junior Cert has increased by nearly 2,000 to 59,584, the first part of a demographic bubble resulting from a late-1990s baby boom.
There is also a boom in the number of Leaving Cert candidates ready to sit higher-level maths. Nearly 13,000 students are registered for the exam, the most for two decades. The increase is largely because of bonus CAO points awarded for honours level, instituted after years of dwindling numbers. It is widely considered the most difficult Leaving Cert subject; only 8,200 students sat the higher-level paper last year, prompting a concerted effort to revive participation.