Almost 50% of Leaving Cert pupils take grinds


CLOSE TO half of Leaving Cert students are having private grinds outside their school, according to an Economic and Social Research Institute study.

The report also finds that up to 40 per cent of female students are spending at least four hours per night on homework or study, but only 30 per cent of male students work that hard.

Maths was the most popular grind subject, followed by French and then Irish.

In one middle-class school, almost 70 per cent of students were getting extra tuition, compared with just 10 per cent in one school in a working-class area.

The study also indicates a close link between Junior and Leaving Cert results. Broadly, students who perform well in the Junior Cert will perform equally well in the Leaving Cert exam.

The ESRI report – the most comprehensive study of the Leaving Cert experience in schools – is highly critical of the exam.

It concludes : “The Leaving Certificate tends to narrow the range of student learning experiences and to focus both teachers and students on covering the course. Such a focus would appear to be at odds with the kinds of flexibility and critical thinking skills needed for young people to flourish in a constantly changing world.

“The findings therefore clearly point to the need to reassess the current Leaving Certificate model, by providing access to a broader range of teaching methods, embedding key skills such as critical thinking in the curriculum, and utilising a broader range of assessment modes, in order to enhance student engagement and equip them with skills and competencies for their future lives.”

The report will be considered at a conference this morning on possible changes to the Leaving Cert and the college admission system. Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn – who has been pushing for change in second-level education – will address the conference.

The report – by Emer Smyth, Joanne Banks and Emma Calvert – states that students who spend more time on homework and study in sixth year achieve higher grades. But surprisingly, it also finds that those who spend considerable time on homework (over four or five hours) do not achieve an advantage over those spending moderate time.

In the study sixth-year students report on classes which often focus on practising previous exam papers. High-performing students, in particular, tend to focus on what is likely to “come up” on the paper. They expressed frustration with teachers who do not focus on exam preparation.

The ESRI reports that stress is high among many Leaving Cert students, especially among girls.

Leaving Cert achievement is also strongly influenced by junior cycle experiences, according to the study. Choices made as early as first year about subjects and subject levels may limit the options open to young people for the Leaving Cert and after second level.

The report states that second year is critical as students who struggle with school work in second year find it hard to regain lost ground.

Most students report a significant “gap” in standards between junior and senior cycle. They find schoolwork much more difficult on entry to fifth year and course materials and types of assessment are more demanding.

Many fifth-year students indicated particular difficulties with higher-level subjects, with some dropping down from higher to ordinary level during the year because of course demands. This is a particular issue for maths.

4hrs+The time spent by 40% of female students on homework. Only 30 per cent of male students have this work rate

70%of students in one middle-class school were getting extra tuition, compared with just 10 per cent in one school in a working-class area