Belfast Telegraph

Six school leavers score highest marks in Leaving Certificate exams

Six students have come top of the bill in this year's Leaving Certificate exams.

While no-one managed to repeat the feat of the last two years of nine A1s, a studious group of school leavers scored highest marks in eight subjects.

Some 58,466 students are anxiously awaiting their results with analysis showing results largely in line with recent years.

One of the most significant changes is the number of students aiming for extra points by sitting the higher level maths papers.

Some 15,198 students were in for it this year with 5.5% hitting the top grade A1, a marginal increase on last year, and a bout one fifth took grades of C and above in those exams, an improvement welcomed by business chiefs.

The numbers sitting the exam have jumped by almost 4,000 since the 25 point bonus was introduced in 2012.

Education Minister Richard Bruton urged students to consider all their options as they mark the milestone.

"As our economy comes out of a very difficult period, many new opportunities have opened up for young people, in the further education and training sector, including traineeships and apprenticeships, as well as in the third level sector," he said.

"This is an important milestone and can be a time of great celebration and indeed relief for students and their families as the results become available. I am happy to see that the results and trends are on a par with previous years".

Mr Bruton added: "I want to say to students who feel that they may not have done as well as they had hoped that all is not lost. Take time to look at all the options that are open to you and can lead you to your chosen career path".

At the top of the results pile, figures from the State Examinations Commission revealed 11 subjects where there were falls of more than 1% in the number of students securing A1 grades.

On the flip side, four subjects saw an increase of 1% or more in the numbers hitting A1. They included the combined physics and chemistry papers, agricultural economics, engineering and Arabic.

The Government has been pushing for more science graduates in recent years but the percentage of students hitting top marks in physics was down 2%, while it was down 2.3% for chemistry and 1% for biology.

But there have been significant increases of 20% in candidates taking physics and 11% in candidates taking chemistry in 2016 over the last three years.

Other shifts in high grades were in accounting where the percentage of A1s was down almost 4%.

Business group Ibec raised concerns about falling numbers of students taking languages with 44% of students sitting French and 13% German.

Junior minister for training and skills John Halligan urged students to consider science and engineering subjects.

"There are so many opportunities awaiting young people in the further education and higher education sectors in these growing sectors of our economy," he said.

"These areas offer qualifications vital to economic prosperity, with exciting career prospects for graduates."

Students were urged to consider all options with the race for college places to begin in earnest next week.

Children's Ombudsman Dr Niall Muldoon said: "The Leaving Cert is an extremely stressful experience for all students, but particularly for those with special learning difficulties.

"We know, that with the right supports, these students can reach their full potential, and I hope that the majority are happy with what they have achieved."

The ombudsman's office raised concerns this year about a lack of supports for students with learning difficulties in exams.

Dr Muldoon said: "I wish all students receiving their exam results tomorrow the very best of luck. Remember, whatever results you get - they are only scores in a test and they don't fully reflect who you are as a person."

The results day also prompted warnings from the Road Safety Authority for students to stay safe on the roads.

Moyagh Murdock, RSA chief executive, said: "Just because you're celebrating tonight doesn't mean you should take any risks. You have your whole life ahead of you so be smart, plan ahead and get home safely tonight."

The RSA noted 12 people aged 16-20 have died on the roads.

Among those receiving results today are more than 2,800 students who took the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA), an alternative to the traditional academic exams.

There were also 23 students from Libya who took the Leaving Cert in Libya, a tradition stretching back to 1997 at the International School of Martyrs. The exams were held in Malta due to the unstable security situation.

Next year the results system for the Leaving Cert is being changed from 14 grades to eight.

Each grade will be worth 10% and will be recorded for the higher level from the top down as H1 to H7 and O1 to O7 at ordinary level.

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