Parents urged to help mind children’s mental health as exams begin

Almost 121,000 students due to sit Junior and Leaving Cert exams from Wednesday

“We would urge anyone involved in exams and supporting young people with their studies to ensure students look after their emotional health”

Parents are being advised to help look after their children’s mental health as tens of thousands of students prepare to sit their Junior and Leaving Cert exams on Wednesday.

Almost 121,000 students are due to sit this year’s State exams, which will be held in more than 5,000 test centres . More than four million exam papers have been securely distributed to those involved in supervising the written exams.

Amid evidence of rising anxiety levels among second-level pupils, the Samaritans has urged students and their parents to put their well-being ahead of their grades.

Cindy O’Shea, regional director for Samaritans in Ireland, said by keeping results in perspective young people are more likely to do themselves justice than if they face intolerable levels of pressure and stress.


“This can be an incredibly stressful time not only for the young person, but for other family members, carers and even teachers,” she said. “We would urge anyone involved in exams and supporting young people with their studies to ensure students look after their emotional health. That way they are likely to cope better with the stress of exams, and achieve better too.”

Stressful place

Ms O’Shea added: “The world can often seem a busy and stressful place, and many young people are anxious, not only about school and their grades, but about their home life or peers.

“It is important that young people learn to manage their emotions, build resilience and develop their communication skills to ensure they can positively cope with difficulties they face.”

Of this year’s exam students, about 17,000 students – or 15 per cent of all exam candidates – are likely to receive “reasonable accommodation” for a variety of special educational needs, including learning difficulties, emotional and behavioural issues and physical or sensory disabilities.

This year’s numbers have yet to be finalised, though they have been rising in recent years. The most common forms of reasonable accommodation are spelling/grammar waivers; reading assistants; and exemptions for some components of individual exams.

Best wishes

The State Examinations Commission, meanwhile, has extended its best wishes to all students sitting this year's exams.

Pat Burke, the commission’s chair, said exams were a milestone for students, their families and schools.

“The reassurance of families and the wider community is an essential support for students sitting examinations. For its part, the commission will continue its work in ensuring that the examinations meet the highest standards of fairness and transparency.”

The exams run until Wednesday, June 20th, for Junior Cert subjects and Friday, June 22nd, for Leaving Cert subjects. The results of the Leaving Cert exams will be available on August 15th

This year about 880 Leaving Cert student will be examined on a new subject – politics and society – for the first time. The subject consists of a final written exam worth 80 per cent of the marks and a citizenship project report – completed during the academic year – worth 20 per cent of the marks available for the subject.


120,197: overall number of exam candidates

4 million: exam papers due to be distributed

61,654: Junior Cert candidates

55,770: Leaving Cert candidates

2,773: Leaving Cert Applied candidates

578: Drafters, setters and translators used to develop exam papers and other tests

5,215: Exam superintendents on duty

17,661: Candidates with additional needs and given extra supports

6,935: Examiners employed to mark the papers and orals

1.9 million: test items including written exam scripts, art and craftwork pieces, project and practical pieces

* Anyone who is feeling overwhelmed because of exam pressure can contact Samaritans for free from any phone on 116 123. Alternatively, they can text 087 260 90 90, email or go online ( to talk to a trained volunteer.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent