Mamma Mia! Pupil gets A in Italian without attending a class

Eimear Kennedy (15) picked up the language from online tools Duolingo and YouTube

Being one of four pupils in the country to have achieved perfect grades in the Junior Certificate is an impressive feat.

But for 15-year-old student Eimear Kennedy, it also includes getting an A grade in Italian, a subject that is not even on the curriculum at St Caimin's Community School in Shannon, Co Clare where she goes to school.

In fact, she got an A without getting a single lesson from a teacher in the subject.

Her interest in the language stemmed from a visit to Rome as a first year student. She was so taken with this most mellifluous of languages that she decided to try and learn a “few phrases and I just took it from there. I just kept going with it”.

She began by using the Duolingo website and app, and then moved on to YouTube clips and finally Italian pop music and television.

She befriended a number of Italian exchange students in the school and that was the extent of her engagement with Italian speakers.

Eimear, who is from Newmarket-on-Fergus, is going straight into transition year and hopes to study German and/or business in university.

She achieved 11 A grades and a distinction in English which is the maximum results any student can get in the Junior Certificate.

“I had very good teachers for every subject. I always try to listen in class and ask questions every time I don’t understand something,” she explained. “I study at home but I try not to overdo it.”

She is studying nine subjects for the Leaving Certificate while also playing basketball for Shannon Jets and learning the piano.

Her principal, Claire Knight, described her as an "all-round student who loves learning and is self-motivated".

Maximum results

Also to achieve maximum Junior Cert results was Isobel Quirk (16) from Carrick-on-Suir, who attended Clochar Na nUrsulach in Thurles, Co Tipperary.

Niall O'Donovan (15) from Sligo town achieved the feat at Summerhill College, while the fourth student to get 11As and a distinction in English went to Millstreet Community School in Cork.

Last year 10 pupils achieved the perfect results compared to this year's four but a spokesman for the State Examinations Commission cautioned against a direct comparison.

Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell-O’Connor congratulated students who received their Junior Certificate results on Wednesday, advising them to now consider carefully what route they wish to take.

Speaking at the Irish Times Higher Options expo at the RDS, Ms Mitchell O'Connor – a former school principal – said: "I think the teachers do a great job in the classroom. I think the exam results overall are very good."

Different routes Urging students to think ahead and consider the different routes available to them after the Leaving Cert, she added: "I am delighted that our pupils and our students did so well. What I want them to do now is to take stock and then to come through to our higher education and our further education routes."

The 61,654 students, who sat the State examination this year, were the first to receive their results in the new Junior Cycle format.

Traditional grades such as As, Bs and Cs are being phased out and replaced with more descriptive grading terms.

English was the first subject to be marked in this manner, in conjunction with classroom-based assessments for the subject.

This year saw a significant drop in the number of students performing at the very highest level across a broad range of subjects.

A total of 240 students received top honours in 10 subjects or more this year compared to 423 in 2016.