Bryan Dobson: My Leaving Cert –‘I’m so old I didn’t get points’

The RTÉ newsreader got two honours, but found Irish and maths the most difficult


What is your most vivid Leaving Cert memory?

I still remember finishing the last exam and the sense of relief. It was a glorious June day. I told a neighbour on my way home: “I’m finished! No more school for me. I’m free!

Who was your most influential teacher and why?

At primary level in St Mathew’s in Irishtown, it was Ms Foster: she was a terrifically inspiring teacher who was enthusiastic about Irish history and was a great Irish speaker (though I was a lost cause).

At second level, it was Vere Wynne-Jones, who was a young teacher in Newpark Comprehensive and set up the transition year programme. He later went on to work in RTÉ.

I was interested in journalism. He helped arrange for me to speak with someone in The Irish Times about how to get a job. I’m eternally grateful for the time he took in helping me and taking my aspirations seriously.

What was your most difficult subject and why?

Irish and maths. I’m not sure why – I just couldn’t get them. I suppose I felt they didn’t have much practical application for me.

Can you recall how many points you got in the Leaving?

I’m so old I didn’t get points. I got a couple of honours. Economics and history, I think. I wanted an honour in English, but my appalling spelling let me down.

Did your results impact on your future career?

They did, in a way. I needed two honours, including one in English, to study journalism at the College of Commerce in Rathmines. I missed out – twice. I ended up studying communications at the same college.

Are exams today easier than they used to be?

I have no idea. It’s 30 years since I sat them. All I know from watching my children is that a lot more seems to ride on them nowadays. For us, there was always the sense that something would turn up, regardless.

Is today’s Leaving Cert exam fit for purpose given the demands of the workplace?

As a terminal exam, it is transparent, fair and has integrity. But I think second level needed to be reformed. It’s a shame reform of the junior cycle has been stymied. It’s a lost opportunity; it would be a wonderful chance to enhance the educational experience.

Bryan Dobson is a journalist and presenter of RTÉ News: Six One. He sat his Leaving Cert in 1978.