'Anything that takes the pressure away from students has got to be a good thing'

The changes to the Leaving Cert announced earlier in the week will take some of the pressure of students in sixth year and should be welcomed, according to a local secondary school principal.

As part of the biggest overhaul of the Leaving Certificate in decades, from 2024 students will sit paper 1 in English and Irish at the end of the fifth year, while in a process that will take several years to complete 40 per cent of students' final mark in each subject will be based on assessment components, such as orals, projects and practicals, some of which will be marked by their teachers. A number of new subjects, including Drama, Film and Theatre Studies; and Climate Action and Sustainable Development, will be introduced to the senior cycle curriculum.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner, the principal of the Mercy Secondary School in Kilbeggan Garrett Farrell welcomed the planned changes. He says that many of the proposed reforms will help take the pressure of students when they enter sixth year.

“The split of having exams at the end of fifth year and sixth year is a fantastic idea because it will take a lot of the pressure off students. It will also give a better focus for fifth year. It's keeping in line with what will happen when they go to college and will have an exam at the end of every year.

“Also, if every exam has 40 per cent assessment that's going to take lots of pressure of as they can potentially pass the exam before they sit the paper.”

Mr Farrell says that changes, such as sitting paper 1 in Irish and English at the end of fifth year, should ease the study burden on students in the run to their written exams at the end of sixth year.

“Currently you have to remember things that you studied at the start of fifth year in your final exam. If you can cover material in fifth year and say 'we can let that go [after the fifth year exam]', then you can move onto the material for the sixth year exam. That is going to be huge.

“It will ease the workload in sixth year dramatically and that's a good thing. There is no benefit to torturing kids.”

Mr Farrell believes that the changes will be welcomed by the vast majority of teachers.

“A lot of subjects have introduced continuous assessment already. There are some subjects that will have to come to terms with doing assessments along the way, but generally

any thing that leaves students in a better frame of mind is going to benefit the teacher. Teachers are like parents. They are in loco parentis. They look at the kids the same way their parents do. They want them to be happy and to do the best they can.

“I can't speak for all teachers but anything that takes the pressure away from students has got to be a good thing.”