Impact of bonus points in Leaving Cert to be reviewed

Minister says it is important to ensure maths bonus system ‘is working properly’

There was tears, relief and friendship on show as the students of Adamstown Community College received their Leaving Cert results. It was the first class that completed their entire post primary education in the college.


The impact of bonus points in the Leaving Cert is under review following concerns that too many students are now opting to take higher-level maths.

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan said the introduction of bonus points in 2012 “achieved what we wanted” in raising the ambition of students in a key subject. She said “it’s important that we make sure that it is working properly” and that there was a related need to focus on “quality in the teaching”.

Ms O’Sullivan was commenting after this year’s Leaving Cert results showed the uptake in higher-level maths had levelled off while the failure rate has crept up for three years running. She has received recommendations from an advisory group on promoting Stem (science, technology, maths and engineering) which are understood to support greater investment in teacher training and infrastructure in schools to raise standards.

DCU president Brian MacCraith, group chairman, said there was a “risk of overreaction” to the rising failure rate in honours maths but a discussion on bonus points was merited.

Too many

A number of maths teachers, including Aidan Roantree from the Institute of Education in Dublin, said too many students were taking the honours paper. He said there could be scope for phasing out bonus points in 2017 when a new CAO system would be introduced offering points for marks of 30-39 per cent.

If bonus points were removed altogether “students will say ‘higher-level maths is too much work, I’m not going to do it’; there are much easier ways to get 100 points,” he added.

John Brennan, a teacher at the Ballinteer Institute and at, also expressed concern at the decision of the State Examinations Commission (SEC) to issue a revised marking scheme after students complained the first paper of the ordinary exam was too difficult. “The reason for the low failure rate is totally down to parent power,” he said.

The SEC said it took on board the concerns expressed by students, parents and others in preparing the marking scheme. However, “contrary to the commentary that followed the examination which suggested that the ordinary-level mathematics paper one was ‘undoable’ or ‘impossible to pass’, it was clear from the outset that candidates had no more difficulty than usual in achieving a D+ or a C+ grade.”