Leaving Cert history: For the first time in history, history students had time

Students would have been happy with ‘broad and fair’ paper, say teachers

For the first time in history, this year’s Leaving Cert history students did not have to stress as much about time, in a paper that provided candidates with extensive choice.

Susan Cashell, a history teacher at the Institute of Education, said that the race against the clock was removed this year. "There has always been a problem with time management for the history paper and it would make students' study of history and their exam experience less fraught if this amount of time allocation and question choice became the norm for the history paper."

Philip Irwin, ASTI history representative and a teacher at The High School in Rathgar, Dublin 6, said that the paper was "broad and fair", and students would have been happy with it.

"A document question about the Montgomery bus boycott, one of the three case studies on the course, provided students with scope to answer about the civil rights movement," Mr Irwin said. "There was a question on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty which, in any other year where the students had to answer an additional question, would have been very long. Given that this is the 100th anniversary of the Treaty, a lot of students would have been hoping it would come up."


Ms Cashell said that the two most popular sections, sovereignty and dictatorship, each had three very accessible questions, including all three case studies on the Treaty and Eucharistic congress of 1932, as well as a "lovely" question on the effect of the second World War on both parts of the island of Ireland.

"Perhaps some students may have been expecting a question relating to the partition of Northern Ireland because of the anniversary of the setting up of the NI parliament," Ms Cashell said.

Mr Irwin said that questions on the problems facing Seán Lemass and/or Jack Lynch as taoiseach were good.

In the section on Europe and the wider world, dictators Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler all showed up, giving students a broad choice, Mr Irwin said.

On the ordinary level paper, Mr Irwin said there was a good spread of questions including partition, the Jarrow March in 1936 England – which many historians see a pivotal moment that influenced later social change – and the Nuremberg rally.

“There was good scope and a lot of chances for students to write about what they know,” said Mr Irwin.

Try this at home: Leaving Cert History, Higher Level

From your study of the Republic of Ireland, 1949-1989, what did you learn about two of the following: changing attitudes towards Irish language and culture; the impact of Vatican II; the influence of television?