What to say if your child got disappointing Junior Cert results

‘Many students have mediocre Junior Certificate results and do really well in the Leaving’

A treat for pupils before getting Junior Certificate results at Temple Carrig School in Greystones, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Doing badly in the Junior Certificate examinations is not an indicator that the student will do badly in the Leaving Certificate examinations, according to a Dublin-based guidance counsellor.

"Parents can get very worried if their son or daughter does badly in the Junior Certificate, but this is unnecessary as bad results can provide very useful information for preparing for the Leaving Certificate," says Andree Harpur, a guidance counsellor who works in private practice in south Dublin.

Generally speaking, students who do badly in the Junior Certificate are often able to admit that they didn’t study enough. “It can be a super motivator for the Leaving Certificate. They can then work much harder once they’ve realised they didn’t work hard enough for the Junior Certificate,” says Harpur.

She says that looking carefully at subjects that students received poor results in can help them assess which are the best subject choices for the Leaving Certificate. Take, for example, students who did badly in science in the junior cert, this can help them focus more on science electives in Transition Year, do a work experience in science, and then see if they need to change their focus on science subjects for the leaving cert.


In terms of parents’ attitudes to poor Junior Certificate results, Harpur suggests that it is best not to overreact. “It can be a bit of a shock, but it is very important that the child isn’t completely disillusioned and discouraged. It is a balance between realising this is an important examination, but it is not the full and final result of your academic life.”

Parenting coach Sheila O’Malley advises parents to speak positively about how their sons and daughters do and be pleased with their effort. “Responding to their progress and effort is what motivates children. If they are criticised, they will either avoid [making an effort] or feel they have to seek perfection.”

Seeking perfection is, according to O’Malley, driven by a fear of failure. “A parent’s job is to nurture effort through encouragement and praise. It’s not the parents who have done the Junior Certificate. It’s all about giving them unconditional love and what matters is how the child feels.”

Using the Junior Certificate results as part of a learning process to help prepare for the Leaving Certificate is the ultimate goal. “I’ve know many students who had really mediocre Junior Certificate results and then did really well in the Leaving Certificate,” said Harpur.