Sarah McInerney on the Leaving Cert: ‘I found it impossible to care about how the boiler works’

My Leaving: RTÉ presenter recalls her exam highs and lows

Broadcaster Sarah McInerney is a presenter on RTÉ’s flagship current affairs show Prime Time, and co-host of Drivetime on RTÉ Radio One. She sat her Leaving Cert in 1999 at Salerno Secondary School in Galway.

Your most vivid exam memory?
Driving up to the school with my parents on results day, walking in a haze through a cacophony of people crying and laughing, to collect the envelope which would dictate my future. Afterwards, this strange cocktail of feelings; terror, excitement, and deflation.

Your strongest subject?
English. It was an excuse to read books and poetry and then wax lyrical about them, using all the adjectives my heart desired.

Weakest subject?
Home Economics. I found it impossible to care about how the boiler works in a house. Pity; my adult self would have avoided household mishaps if I'd paid more attention. I learned about arrogance. Prevailing wisdom was it was easy to get an A in the subject. I believed that, didn't put the work in, and paid the price – bucking the trend with a B3.


Most inspiring teacher and why?
Marie Flannery, my geography teacher, who is still in Salerno now. Watching her dancing around the classroom, pretending to be a glacier, I learned the value of being passionate about your job, and the wonder of being comfortable in your own skin.

How many points did you get?

Is the exam fair?
If you want to test people's capacity to remember large volumes of information, I think the Leaving Cert does that fairly. It suited me. I'm good at remembering lots of information for short periods of time, and then forgetting all of it with equal haste and rigour.

Ask me about the subjects I got an A1 in and I’ll likely be able to tell you nothing. I’m no educationalist, but I suspect there must be a better way; one that recognises innovation, creativity and problem solving.