Minister may review Leaving Cert maths bonus points

Results show uptake for higher level maths has levelled off after several years of growth

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 Minister for Education has not ruled out reviewing the recently introduced bonus for honours Leaving Certificate maths in light of the further rise in the number of those failing the higher paper.

Results published today show the uptake for higher level maths has levelled off after several years of growth, with 27 per cent of candidates taking the tougher paper, the same as last year.

Of greater concern, however, is that the failure rate has risen to 5.2 per cent, up from 4.2 per cent last year, 3.3 per cent in 2013 and 2.3 per cent in 2012.

Speaking at Castletroy College in Limerick, where almost 200 students are getting results, Jan O’Sullivan said the introduction of the bonus had achieved the goal of increasing the number of students taking the higher level maths paper however she plans to keep it under review to ensure it is “working properly”.

“The percentage of students who didn’t get a D or higher than a D in honours maths is round about the average for the maths science subjects generally. In fact there are higher numbers in physics and chemistry for example so it’s pretty much within the norms,” she said.

“What is positive about the higher level maths paper is that we now have about 27 per cent of students who are taking it and that’s been steadily increasingly, no particular increase this year, but I think it has achieved what we wanted.

“We wanted students who had the ability to take the paper at that level to actually go for it so I think that’s positive but we will keep it under review because it’s relatively recently that the changes were made and I think it’s important that we make sure that it is working properly, but the evidence suggests that we now have students taking the paper and people doing relatively well in the paper,” she insisted.

When asked whether the failure rate raises questions about the need to focus on the quality of maths teaching rather than the number of those taking the higher level paper Ms O’Sullivan insisted a number of measures have been taken in relation to offering course to maths teachers who want to upskill.

“It’s a combination of both, obviously we need quality in the teaching but we also need I think for students to feel this is something that they can do.

“There are clearly opportunities in terms of higher education and job opportunities for the future and we want to ensure that the education system basically matches the economy and the opportunities for young people.”

Some 57,929 Leaving Cert students will receive their results this morning, with college offers through the Central Applications Office (CAO) being issued next Monday.

Increasing the number of students taking higher level maths has been a major goal of education policy.

The introduction of 25 CAO bonus points for a D grade or better in 2012 has led to a 30 per cent jump in those taking the higher level paper, and the numbers are set to rise further in 2017 when a new CAO system will allocate points to students who get 30-39 per cent – what is currently regarded as an E or “fail” – at higher level.

One student got nine A1s this year, matching the achievement of Conor Gallagher of St Michael’s College, Dublin in 2014, while nine students got eight A1s.