Repeating after six years pays off
One Ballina student had more reason than most to be joyful about his results last week
LAST Wednesday James McNeely, like thousands across the country, received his Leaving Cert results. But in an ironic twist of fate the date marked the third anniversary of the accident that prompted the 23-year-old to repeat the State exams this year.
“On August 13, 2005 I fractured my neck and vertebrae. I was in the Mater hospital for a week and I was in the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghaire for 12 weeks. In the rehab centre the doctor came over to me and said ‘squeeze my fingers’. She then told me that I would never be able to work at anything that involved using my hands or putting pressure on my neck.” This put to bed James’ dreams of becoming a carpenter.
James, who hails from Ballinahaglish, three miles outside Ballina, felt his results the first time round in 2002 were ‘useless’. “I failed maths and geography and the rest were Ds and Cs. I wasn’t too bothered about the Leaving Cert that year as I was thinking of doing an apprenticeship. I ended up working in a bar and I went on to work in Hollister [a local factory] for two years. I had just started an apprenticeship with my father as a carpenter when I had the accident.”
This forced him to rethink his whole career path. “At first I thought I would be able to go back as a mature student but then I realised I’d have to go back and do the Leaving Cert again.”
After doing work experience in a optician’s as part of a Job Start course in Castlebar, James decided to apply for Optometry in Manchester University. “There was no way I would have got the points to do it in Ireland because it was at 560 but if I do a one-year foundation course in Science I will get straight into the three-year Optometry degree course.”
James settled in well to Gortnor Abbey Secondary School in Crossmolina last September. “It was strange going back the first week but after that I was flying it. The students were very good and the teachers were very supportive and extremely helpful. They couldn’t do enough for me.”
But facing into the Leaving Cert syllabus was no easy task for the 23-year-old, who had the added pressure of cramming the two-year honours level biology, physics and chemistry programme into just one year, having never studied the subjects before. After achieving an A1 in biology, and a B2 in chemistry and physics, the effort he put into the year is unquestionable. An A2 in ordinary level English and an A1 in maths added to his impressive scoresheet that will see him gain entry into his chosen course.
“Towards the end it was tough going as I was studying flat out. I didn’t go out or have a social life. At times I just wanted to throw the whole thing aside.”
He admits that the tension in the build-up to D-Day last Wednesday was also difficult. “I was very ratty over the last couple of days before the results and I was getting very nervous.
“But it was a really good surprise. I was expecting to get on worse in chemistry and English and I was delighted to get the A1 in biology as I found it interesting.
“In a nutshell, everything I have gone through in the last year has been worthwhile. Even if I wasn’t going on to college I am just glad to have a good Leaving Cert.”
And what of the four years of studying ahead? “I take everything as it comes. Everything is a bridge to get to where you want to go. You have hurdles to cross in life and I think I have crossed the hardest hurdle in getting over the Leaving Cert.”
Celebrating is…training and having tea
IN Sancta Maria College in Louisburgh, 53 students got their Leaving Cert results last Wednesday, and Principal, Pauline Moran, was delighted that most students reached their potential. She said there were no dramatic personal stories or feats of major achievement from the students this year, but the majority seemed very pleased with their results.
“It’s hard to quantify, but the overall level of points was high,” she said. “Over three-quarters of the students completed transition year and I feel this extra time in school is reflected in the consistent exam results they got – though it is also down to their hard work and that of the staff at the school.”
Pauline added that there was no drastic decline in the maths results at Sancta Maria College.
Twelve miles away, acting principal of Rice College in Westport, Martin McIntyre, was evidently pleased with how the 80 final year students at his school performed.
With new principal Patricia Atkins due to take over for the upcoming year, Mr McIntyre said that he was proud of all the students on his first and last time to oversee results day at the all-boys school.
“I am very happy,” he said, “and all the lads I have spoken to so far have got the courses they wanted. We have many over the 500 points mark and the highest was 585 – which is incredible shooting no matter what anyone says. I am happy and the students are happy and they are the ones who matter today.”
Liam Carpenter from Kilmeena didn’t get a chance to celebrate his results with the rest of his friends last Wednesday. The 17-year-old had a training session with the Connacht U-20 rugby team later that evening, and for a young man who has already had the honour of wearing the national jersey, rugby will remain a top priority for now.
“I am very happy with the results,” he said. “I was aiming for engineering (undenominated) in NUI Galway, which is 460, and I returned 505 points, so I’m happy out. I play a lot of rugby and am training this summer with the Connacht U-20s, so I won’t go celebrating as I have to go training at 5pm and couldn’t get any time off from that. I have played for Ireland U-18s and am hoping to play with Corinthians next year in Galway, and get some senior game time in the AIL.”
Liam admits that the lure of an established club rugby set-up in the province he represents was part of the appeal of Galway to him, saying: ‘I suppose this was one of the factors in my choosing to attend NUIG’.
Nearby, frantically totting up the points from his results sheet, James Duffy is just over half-way down the list when he realises he has secured his preferred college course. His fingers and his mind relax. The wait is over.
“I think I got 545 points,” says the Kilmeena teenager, still studying the figure on the calculator. “I did all higher level subjects and I needed 390 for business in Limerick so I am delighted with the result and unless it goes up by hundreds of points I am safe.”
James was not anxious prior to opening his envelope. “I wasn’t nervous this morning as I was pretty certain I got the course. My brother goes to college in UL and my aunt is a lecturer in the business school there and recommended it to me.”
Down the road, the results in the Sacred Heart School in Westport were excellent and in keeping with the standards of other years, according to Principal, Mary Ryan. The problem seen nationally with maths did not manifest there either.
“Across our 90 candidates we have not witnessed the decline in maths grades that is being talked about,” she said. “We had a lot of people in the points bracket between 450 and 550 and all the girls have done themselves proud and their hard work and dedication has paid off. There is no magic formula for success, but as long as students work consistently, attend all classes regularly, and co-operate with their teachers and parents in all areas they will always do well.”
Geraldine McManamon was one of the many girls in the Sacred Heart School who was clutching her sealed envelope and making for the door. “I don’t want to open it yet,” she said. “It’s a long wait until the offers come next week and I’d like to wait until closer to the time before deciding what to do.”
Her friend Roisin McNae had no such difficulties. Analysing her results sheet as she navigated the labyrinthine hallways of the school with an innate sense of direction after so many years of routine there, she commented that she passed everything and was happy with the results of the exams that over a decade of schooling had geared her for.
Then, without glancing upwards, she ushered her companion towards the door to a new chapter in their lives.
“Lets go for a cup of tea,” she suggested.
Smiles amid the deluge
LIKE every other school in the country, there was a sense of anticipation and nervousness among the Leaving Cert students of McHale College, Achill as they came in to collect their results on a wet Wednesday morning.
As the students rushed into the school to escape the downpour outside, they were met as always by the school’s Principal, Niall Lynchehaun, who was ready to hand out the results. Gathered outside the Principal’s office, some of the students compared results, considered if they would have enough points and, most importantly, thought about where life after school would take them.
On the morning of the results, the news on the radio and in the papers was that there was a 12 per cent failure rate in ordinary level maths and Mr Lynchehaun admitted he was anxious when he came to the school.
“I was a bit worried in the morning because they were saying on the radio that there was a high failure rate in maths. However, there were no failures in maths or English here and I am very satisfied with this year’s results. Twenty-four students did the Leaving Cert here in June and I think they all did enough to be able to get courses in college if they want to go,” he said.
It was a similar story next door in Scoil Damhnait where only 12 students sat the Leaving Cert last June. The principal, Máire Sweeney, explained that she was delighted with all the students and very pleased with what they achieved.
“I am very satisfied with the standard of the results and I’m delighted for the students and I really wish them the best of luck in the future,” she said.
Principals not happy at media coverage
THE principals of the two second level schools in Belmullet have criticised the media coverage of the Leaving Cert maths results on the morning when students got their results.
On Wednesday morning, the news headlines announced that 5,000 students nationwide had failed the Leaving Cert maths exams and both Sabina Munnelly, Principal of St Brendan’s College, and Padraig Staunton, Principal of Our Lady’s Secondary School, said it put unnecessary pressure on students.
Both Mr Staunton and Ms Munnelly said they had students coming in on the morning of the results and specifically asking how they did in maths because of the media coverage.
“I am not happy with the horrendous headlines on the morning of the results saying that 5,000 had failed maths. Anyone who may have had difficulties with maths would have been wondering if they were one of that 5,000. It is an awful situation to put a student who is already under enough pressure in and it is not fair,” Mr Staunton said.
Ms Munnelly admitted that after hearing the news she feared that at least one of her students would be among those who had failed, but her fears were allayed when the results were opened and nobody had failed.
“I was so pleased with the maths because I was terrified with the headlines in the papers saying that 5,000 students failed the subject, but thankfully none of them was in St Brendan’s,” she said. “Everyone passed and I am delighted for them. They were terrified coming in in the morning and the first thing they asked was how they did in maths. The highlight was definitely the maths results and I was delighted especially for the students who repeated because you need maths to progress.”
Up to 60 students sat the Leaving Cert in St Brendan’s College but this year it was sat in the strange environment of the Broadhaven Bay Hotel because the school is currently under renovation. Ms Munnelly was full of praise for the management of the Broadhaven Bay Hotel who put all the students at ease with their new surroundings during the exams.
Ms Munnelly said the results were very good – with one student getting 555 points – and explained that the majority of the students will be going on to third level.
Mr Staunton said the school was delighted with the results and said that a number of students got points over 550. Our Lady’s offered 16 subjects for the Leaving Cert – including art and music – and Mr Staunton said the grades across the different subjects were excellent. He congratulated all the students on their results and wished them the best in the future, but added that there were a number of options for students if they did not get their first choice.
“If the students did not do as good as they hoped for I would advise them to take the opportunity of checking their scripts and if they wish they can appeal a result. If you didn’t get your first choice there are a lot of courses you can do now which might be a stepping stone to your first choice course,” he said.
Meanwhile in Rossport, Micheál Ó hÉalaí, Principal of Coláiste Chomáin said he was happy overall with the performance of the students. He said that 15 students sat the Leaving Cert in June and that the majority of them would go on to third level.
“Overall, the standard of the results was very good and a lot of the students will go on to college. Our school would have one of the highest proportion of students going to third level in the country even though we do not have as much options,” he said. Mr Ó hÉalaí added the with the downturn in the economy he feels that job opportunities for graduates may not be as plentiful as they used to be and apprenticeships may be a better option for some people.
Limerick set to become ‘little Ballina’
TWO sets of twins bagged almost 2,500 points for St Mary’s Secondary School in Ballina last week. Knockanillaun’s Aoife and Aisling Maughan, who will both pursue national school teaching courses in Dublin, were just as happy as twins Maria and Deirdre Kelly from Carrowmore Lacken who will go on to study medicine and law.
Principal, Patsy Sweeney, said the 110-strong class of 2008, including Leaving Cert Applied students, did ‘exceptionally well’. “We are so proud of everyone here, with 100 per cent of the girls going on to further study.”
Mrs Sweeney said the maths and science trends were bucked, with no failures recorded in St Mary’s, however she did have a word of warning about the revised timetable. “It was of no benefit to us as a girls’ school. Home economics and geography, two huge choice subjects, came in straight away after English and Irish and I feel that was almost criminal to the candidates,” she said.
The one startling trend to come from the girls school is the upswing in applications for the University of Limerick. “So many girls have chosen Limerick as their place of study – with a huge increase in business and related subjects – it will be like a little Ballina there,” she laughed.
Across the bridge in St Muredach’s College, Ballina, first-time nerves didn’t just hit the Leaving Cert students last Wednesday. Acting Principal, Joe Kenny, told The Mayo News there were a few sleepless nights in the teacher’s homes as well.
“There is a bit of a buzz about the day, and as a first-time experience for me, I’ll admit I was nervous,” said Mr Kenny.
St Muredach’s 80-strong class was one of the few that was facilitated with a Career Guidance Counsellor, Peadar O’Toole, who was in-situ on Wednesday last to support students and assess the options available ahead of the CAO offers.
“I think that’s a really important element of today; to have someone there who is knowledgeable enough to sit down and take it all in with each student.”
One of the largest boys’ secondary schools in the county, last year, 93 per cent of St Muredach’s Leaving Certificate students went on to third level.
Up the road in Moyne College, the hallowed staff room, often only imagined by students, but never actually witnessed, opened its doors to the outgoing students in last Wednesday to celebrate the Leaving Cert results in style – with tea and biscuits.
As torrential rain housed many of the jubilant students indoors, one staff member announced: “Looking out at the rain, there’s little to do but have a cup of tea and some nice chocolate biscuits; the staff room is open and the kettle is on.”
Principal, Terry McCole, was also on hand to administer some clear and concise advice to his 43 ‘excellent’ students.
“I would tell everyone not to rush into anything. Instead, take time out to think over it and maybe go on to do a Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) course first.”
Nathy’s students make the ‘A’ grade
ONE hundred and ten students sat their Leaving Cert and Leaving Cert Applied exams in St Nathy’s College in Ballaghaderreen last June, with President Fr Martin Convey declaring that the students in general were delighted with their results, despite having found some of the individual papers quite testing.
Fr Convey said that some excellent individual results were achieved with students gaining more ‘A’ grades than in previous years.
“Students who actively sought such high grades were, by and large, successful in achieving the desired results and corresponding high points. As a result, most students should gain their top CAO preferences,” said Fr Convey, who added that, contrary to nationwide trends, results in science subjects and mathematics were particularly good.
“The school promotes the importance of these subjects and, while it is wonderful to see several A1 grades in higher level papers in these subject areas, it is even more pleasing to see students do very well at lower level.”
‘A’ grades were also obtained in many other subjects including technical drawing, physics and chemistry, German, construction studies and music.
Fr Convey said English students in St Nathy’s did exceptionally well.
“Ten percent of all students who sat the paper received either an A1 or an A2 at higher level.”
The college was also especially pleased with the exceptionally low failure rates in all subject areas, with many subjects having a zero per cent failure rate. These subject included history, German, art, physics, engineering, technical drawing, business, music and home economics.
The college was also very encouraged by the grades awarded for the Leaving Cert Vocational Programme (LCVP) Link Modules and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) Examination.
Fr Convey concluded by thanking all the teachers and parents who worked so hard to ensure that everything possible was done to facilitate students performing to the best of their abilities and planning wisely for their future lives and careers.
“The college would also like to thank all of its Leaving Cert students for their co-operation over the years and we wish them the very best of luck in their future lives.”
BALLINROBE COMMUNITY SCHOOL
‘It’s great to see the smiling faces’
‘HAVE you a calculator? C’mon add this up for me. Hurry on, I can’t take this.’ ‘What’s a B1 worth, is it 80 points?’ ‘No, I think it’s 85.’ ‘Are you sure? Excellent! I got 450 points so. Better ring home now.’ Just one of the many snatched conversations at Ballinrobe Community School on Wednesday morning last as some of the 108 students arrived to discover what fruit their June toils bore.
Principal Michael Brett had been in the school since early morning and was delighted with the results achieved by the class of 2008.
“The pupils did extremely well and I am very proud of them. The school bucked the nationwide trends in maths and science and did very well in those subjects. It is great to see the smiling faces here today,” said Mr Brett, who added that a huge percentage of the students will go on to third level education.
Ashling Mullahy from Bellaghy achieved the highest points in the school, coming in very close to the 600 points mark. “She was our ‘Student of the Year for 2008’ so she definitely proved her worth,” said Mr Brett.
“I got 390 points and I am very happy with my results. I am hoping to do Construction Management in University of Limerick [UL] so I should get that course. I am delighted. I wasn’t nervous going in and I had a great night’s sleep last night!”
“I am very happy. I did better than I thought. I got 475 points and I got an A1 in Biology. I hope to do construction teaching in UL.”
Brian got 445 points and plans to study Agricultural Science in University College Dublin. “I am very happy with the results,” said Brian who kept his studies ‘ticking over’ during the year.
Mark Munroe was delighted to ‘pass everything’. “I will probably repeat next year though,” he said. “ I have a championship match tomorrow so I won’t be able to do much celebrating tonight I’m afraid.”
“Oh my God, I’m delighted, I just can’t believe it. I got 445 points. I thought I would be 30 points off the course I wanted so I am over the moon. I want to do woodwork teaching in UL.”
“I expected to do worse so I am happy. I was a bit worried beforehand,” said Siobhan who plans on studying nursing in Castlebar if the CAO offers go her way. “I was most happy with my French result because I thought I had failed.”
“I am delighted with the results. I just wanted to get over 500 so I am very happy because I got 505 points. I got an A1 in Agricultural Science,” said Fiona, who plans to study Agricultural Science in UCD.
Maximum points on the double
TWO Claremorris students achieved the maximum 600 points when the Leaving Certificate results were announced on Wednesday. And both reside at Convent Road, Claremorris.
Denise Moran, daughter of Sean and Catriona, secured seven A1s at Mount St Michael while Alan Benson, son of Aiden and Mary, did likewise at St Colman’s College.
Ms Fionnghuala King, principal of Mount St Michael, said she was very pleased with the results. “We had one of our smaller classes sitting the Leaving Cert in June. A total of 57 students sat the exams. The numbers in most of the other years are in the mid-70s range.
“Overall, we had tremendous results across the board with no failures in maths. That is one area where we certainly defied the national average.
“Denise Moran became our first student for some years to achieve the maximum of 600 points in the Leaving Cert. She is going to study Science in UCD. About 15 per cent of the students got better than 500 points with 65 per cent getting more that 360 points.
“Those under that also achieved wonderfully as well and I am so pleased for all of them. We had three Lithuanian students who also got honours in higher level papers. All in all, we are delighted with the success of our students at Mount St Michael.”
Over in St Colman’s, where around 70 pupils sat the exams, school Principal, Danny McHugh, also expressed satisfaction and delight with the outcome. “I’m very pleased with the results achieved by the students. Alan Benson excelled when securing the maximum 600 points figure. Ollie Mobasser [son of Helen and Ali of Ballinaphuil] came very close to the maximum as well when he got 590 points.
“Throughout the house, the students did very well at various levels. We had seven doing the LCA and they all managed to get distinctions and merits.
“We were also very pleased for Wojciech Streciwilk who came to the school from Poland three years ago and who managed to get 475 points, which was a tremendous achievement for a young man whose first language was not English. I want to wish all the lads the very best in whatever they decide to do in the future.”
Happy medley of high points and solid passes
FOR the 266 students who sat the Leaving Certificate in county town, Castlebar, last Wednesday was a good day, by all accounts. The significant number of high points achievers was afforded equal plaudits as those who achieved solid passes by principals Áine Bean Uí Mhoráin, Mr Sean Burke and Mr Ioseph McGowan.
“We are very pleased,” observed Bean Uí Mhoráin, Principal of St Joseph’s Secondary School. “There are a number of students who achieved 565 points and more. so we have to be pleased These high points varied – history and accountancy stand out – but they were generally right across the board.”
With 100 girls sitting the Leaving Cert at St Joseph’s, the national trend – which dramatically left 5,000 students failing ordinary and foundation level maths – was not reflected in that school’s results, confirmed Bean Uí Mhoráin.
In St Joseph’s an impressive 85 to 90 per cent of these students will continue on to third level studies, she also said.
“It is important to remember that we sometimes get carried away with the high points, but there are the students with different challenges who are getting good, solid pass Leaving Certs. They are achieving their best too and can move on to third level by doing PLC courses,” continued Áine Uí Mhoráin.
Meanwhile, in St Gerald’s College – which has 620 pupils in total – there were 96 candidates. Principal, Mr Sean Burke, also told The Mayo News he was ‘very happy’ with the overall results.
“All of the students who sat honours maths did exceptionally well. In fact, 35 per cent of the students got 500 points or more. St Gerald’s offers 17 subjects for Leaving Cert, including religion and art,” said Mr Burke, adding that many students had worked very hard to achieve ‘good solid Leaving Certs’.
While St Joseph’s had no foreign nationals sitting the exam, St Gerald’s had a number of African and Indian pupils and Davitt College had one Eastern European student.
Undoubtedly, it was celebrations for pupils, parents and teachers at Davitt College which, according to Principal, Mr Ioseph McGowan, achieved ‘its best results ever’ with one student receiving 590 points.
Star pupil, Aaron Donnelly received 590 points and plans to study medicine in Trinity while Rosemary Duffy was awarded 580 points and intends studying psychology and primary school teaching in Limerick.
“We had 70 boys and girls doing the exams and we got the best results ever, along with some high achievers and some solid passes. Only one student failed,” said Mr McGowan.
“I can’t understand why there’s such a failure level in maths [nationwide]. There may be some students taking honours level against the advice of the teachers,” he continued.
Mr McGowan stressed to The Mayo News that the ethos of Davitt College was underpinned by ‘a team effort’ involving pupils, teachers and parents.
“We have the best facilities in the county, with data projectors in every room, as well as clever boards and a very sophisticated IT system,” added Mr McGowan.