Rise in numbers getting honours Irish

More students took higher level papers, especially in Stem subjects

The number of students taking chemistry is up 4.2 per cent to 7,533, with an increase of 0.6 per cent in honours grades

The number of students taking chemistry is up 4.2 per cent to 7,533, with an increase of 0.6 per cent in honours grades


The big success story of this year’s Leaving Cert is the growth in numbers taking higher-level Irish, and getting honours in it. Almost 20,000 students now sit higher-level Irish, with more than 88 per cent of them getting grade C or higher. This follows the decision by former minister for education Mary Hanafin to increase the proportion of marks allocated to the oral component of the Irish exam to 40 per cent.

This year’s Leaving results signal other significant trends across a range of subjects.

The biggest proportionate increases in the numbers taking higher level are in Stem (technology, engineering, appled maths and physics). There are smaller but significant increases in numbers taking higher biology and chemistry.

Both German and Spanish have seen significant growth in numbers at higher level, as did Italian, but from a very low base of 248 students.

The huge increase in those taking higher level since the introduction of Project Maths and the award of 25 bonus points for those who pass higher maths, has ground to a halt.

This year’s ordinary level maths paper 1 was controversial and there were tales of students leaving the exam hall in tears. The paper was adjusted since then, and the proportion of those 33,266 students getting C or higher in ordinary-level maths in 2015 is up 7 per cent on 2014, to 73.7 per cent. The overall numbers failing maths is now 3,022, a 40 per cent drop on the failure numbers, which had been about 5,000 in previous years.


The numbers who sat the Leaving Cert in 2015 increased again by 939, or 1.6 per cent, to 57,929. This increase will continue for years because of our current demographics.

The numbers taking the Leaving Cert Applied (LCA) continues to drop every year, having fallen by 10 per cent over the past five years, and LCA students now represent only 5 per cent of the overall numbers taking the Leaving.

This raises questions about the credibility of this more vocational Leaving Cert and our capacity to develop a vocational /apprenticeship stream within second-level education, similar to the Germanic and northern European model proposed by many as the answer to the training needs of our practically-orientated children.

The numbers registering for the Leaving Cert Vocational Programme (LCVP) have also dropped for the past five years, and is now down 9 per cent over that period, from 16,394 to 14,924. This follows the Department of Education removal of extra staff for the programme in cuts since 2009.

Some 1,361 students sat an exam in an EU language not traditionally taught in Irish schools. Half of those (671) took Polish, more than twice the number who sat Italian this year (325), which is an increase of 31 per cent taking Italian since 2014. The two other non-curricular EU languages with significant numbers this year are Lithuanian (247 sits) and Romanian (138 sits).

The number of students repeating the Leaving Cert to get higher points is decreasing every year and has dropped by 44 per cent (1,276 students) over the past five years. Of the 57,929 students who sat the LC in 2015, 1,670 (2.8 per cent) were repeats. The Hpat test for medicine, which now means there is less benefit to students for getting more than 550 points, is the most significant factor reducing repeats.

The numbers taking the Leaving in 2015 is up 1.6 per cent in 2015, but the increase in the numbers taking higher level papers is up considerably more in some subjects.

- The number of students taking higher-level Irish is up 7.3 per cent to 19,460, with an decrease of 0.4 per cent scoring grade of C or higher.

- Higher-level maths is up 2.5 per cent to 14,691 students (though the proportion of students is the same as last year), but with a decrease of 2.2 per cent getting honours.

- The numbers taking technology at higher level is up 18.7 per cent to 1,167 students, with an increase of 3.7 per cent in grade C or higher.

- Accounting is up 12.8 per cent to 4,748, with a decrease of 4 per cent in the numbers getting C or higher.

- Applied maths is up 10 per cent to 1,729, with 2.2 per cent fewer getting honours.

- Students taking German are up 9 per cent to 5,154, with a decrease of 2.1 per cent in the numbers scoring C or higher.

- Spanish is up 7.6 per cent to 3,655, with an increase of 3.4 per cent getting C or higher.

- Physics is up 6.7 per cent to 5,764, but with a decrease of 3.2 per cent getting honours.

- Engineering is up 5.6 per cent to 4,408, with an increase of 1.2 per cent getting honours.

- Biology is up 4.7 per cent to 25,596, with 4.9 per cent more getting honours.

- Economics is up 4.5 per cent to 4,088, with an insignificant decrease of 0.3 per cent in the honours awarded.

- Chemistry is up 4.2 per cent to 7,533, with an increase of 0.6 per cent in honours.

- French is up 2.6 per cent to 15,408, with a decrease of 2.5 per cent in honours.

- English is up 2.6 per cent to 36,059, with an insignificant decrease of 0.4 per cent in those getting C or higher.

- Design and communications graphics numbers are up 2.3 per cent to 4,192 and 1.4 per cent more got C or higher.

- Home economics social and scientific is up 2.2 per cent to 8,754 students, with honours up 2.4 per cent.