There was a mix of joy, nervousness and excitement as thousands of students opened their Leaving Certificate results in the midst of a pandemic.
More than 60,000 young people learned of their calculated grades on Monday.
The system, based largely on teacher predictions, was introduced after the traditional examinations due to be held in June were cancelled due to Covid-19.
A message from Minister Norma Foley to the Leaving Certificate class of 2020 pic.twitter.com/0iMyeIZ6DQ— education.ie (@Education_Ire) September 7, 2020
Having learned from last month’s exam controversies across the UK, the education authorities in Ireland did not rely on the past performance of schools in the standardisation calculation.
While broadly welcomed by students there are concerns that the grading will lead to higher points requirements for college courses.
Limerick student David Wolfe is one of those students who was thrilled with his results.
“I’m feeling fantastic – I’m very relieved,” he said.
“I’m delighted with how everything has turned out. I was dreading the results for a few days but it’s over with the best possible outcome.”
A student of John the Baptist Community School in Hospital, Co Limerick, Mr Wolfe said he was confident he will have enough points to gain a place to study history and politics at Trinity College Dublin.
“I know that there will be a bit of disappointment and some people are still in limbo still but I’m very happy and I hope most people will be too,” he said. “It was really tough.”
The eldest of 17 grandchildren, Mr Wolfe said his entire family were happy for him and that he said he was looking forward to celebrating with his friends in a socially distant way even if it was not going to be how he envisioned.
“Even though it’s not the closure we all wanted, we do feel now we’ve graduated finally,” he added.
Alex Linehan, a student of Colaiste Eamann Ris in Cork, was also happy with his results.
“The second I woke up I checked my results and the feeling: it was just amazing,” he said.
“I managed to get 544 points which I’m really proud of myself. I did put in quite a lot of work. I was talking to some of my friends and we all felt the system was very accurate and fair.
“Even though there was some controversy around the system and people thought it wouldn’t be done well, I think it was handled perfectly. It was both fair and accurate.”
Not all students were happy. Some 17% of results were downgraded after changes were made to the system to ensure that schools’ previous results were not taken into account in the standardisation process.
Aaron Wolfe, principal of Colaiste Eamann Ris, described the grading system as “hard for everyone: students, parents, teachers”.
“Teachers didn’t want to be in this position,” he said. “Teachers have taken industrial action to stop this from happening in the past but in the current pandemic teachers said we’ll do it.
“Teachers did not want to take part in the calculated grading system, having resisted grading their own students for years.”
He said results day was very different for both the students and their teachers – only a small group of students were allowed to go to the school to learn of their results in a socially distant way.
“They’ve been here for six years; they would have liked to come in and meet the staff but they couldn’t because we don’t have visitors anymore in the building. Everyone was wearing masks, we couldn’t shake their hands,” he said.
“It was very strange.”
He said it was also unfortunate that students would not be able to celebrate the “rite of passage” that was results night.
“They’ve missed out on so much, they’ve missed out on their Leaving Cert graduation, they didn’t finish properly and they didn’t sit exams and now they’re going to a very different type of college,” Mr Wolfe said.
“They won’t have a social life, that is important in third level and that’s half the fun of going to college.”