Leaving Cert stress and strains

Sir, – Your front page headline “Leaving Cert causes stress and burnout in students” (December 17th), while partly true, is likely to add to the stress of those students who are working away preparing for their exams with support from their parents and teachers.

Research carried out by Queen’s and Oxford Universities (2015) on the Leaving Cert cited the media as a significant contributor to exam stress in Ireland; much more so than in other countries.

The article is based on a recent report from the Economic and Social Research Institute, published as part of the early stages of a broad review of the senior cycle, being carried out by the NCCA.

Your article also points out some of the positive aspects of the senior cycle identified by parents, students and teachers in the 41 schools participating in the review. These include the fair, objective and highly valued nature of our current exams system as well as very positive student-teacher relationships. As the representative voice for the majority of second level teachers, the ASTI is actively engaged in the senior cycle review.


Your article and the ESRI report refer to broader forms of assessment, in line with the Framework for Junior Cycle.

While we favour additional exam components such as practical exams and portfolio work which are already available in 18 out of the 37 Leaving Cert exams subjects, we are concerned by suggestions that senior cycle reform should be based on the Framework for Junior Cycle.

At this time only one junior cycle subject has been assessed by the State Examinations Commission.

Feedback suggests that students find the new model of classroom-based assessment stressful, and there is widespread concern among teachers of a possible fall in standards, as common level papers replace higher and ordinary level exams in all subjects other than Irish, English and maths.

The review of the senior cycle presents a valuable opportunity to examine the many aspects of our current system – good and bad – and to bring about meaningful change, and hopefully an improved experience for our young people.

However, we must be careful of devising grand plans to cure all ills without really understanding the full implications of change on students and on educational standards. To this end we must engage fully with teachers who must implement any change – good or bad – in the classroom. – Yours, etc,


ASTI President,

Winetavern Street, Dublin 8.