Wait is over as 117,000 begin their Leaving and Junior Cert exams
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn led the "good luck" wishes to almost 117,000 students starting the Leaving and Junior Certificate exams today.
While Leaving Cert entries are reasonably stable at 56,602, an increase in Junior Cert candidates to more than 60,000 is a sign of the surge in student numbers coming through the system.
Among the Leaving Cert entries are 62 students from the International School of Martyrs in Tripoli, Libya, for whom special arrangements have been made to sit the exams in Malta, because of ongoing political unrest in that country.
The State Examinations Commission has sent two superintendents to Malta to supervise the exams.
There have been further increases in the number of students at both Leaving and Junior Cert level taking higher level maths, boosting hopes that more school-leavers will have the skills increasingly demanded by employers in the "smart economy".
It is a response to the introduction of 25 bonus points for a minimum grade D3 in the Leaving Cert higher level paper.
Mr Quinn said the exam period could be a stressful time for students, and urged them to avail of the supports offered by teachers, parents, families and friends.
Education and health experts have offered much advice to students to help them through the days and weeks ahead.
Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) president Gerry Breslin said students should "take things easy".
He said it was normal to feel some level of anxiety but the trick was to manage that anxiety through a good routine, good nutrition, enough sleep and time for rest and relaxation.
Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA) education officer Pat O'Mahony said while many saw the Leaving Cert as a make-or-break event, this was not the case.
"It is but a very early game in the long league of life and, however students do over the course of the next few weeks in the examination hall, will neither make nor break their lives," he said.
The Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) appealed to the general public to be aware of the location of exam centres and ensure that noise levels were kept to the absolute minimum during the exam times.
The National Parents Council – Post Primary (NPCPP) said parents should stay calm and play their part by keeping students calm, making sure they take the tea breaks, eat well and sleep well.
Experts at St Patrick's Mental Health Services said that keeping lines of communication open between parents and young people was vital.
CEO at St Patrick's Paul Gilligan said acknowledging the stress and perceived importance of the exams to the student was important.
The 1Life Suicide Prevention and Intervention helpline said records from previous years indicated an increase in calls from students during the months of April to June.
It said students may need particular attention at this time of the year and any change in behaviour should be addressed and treated with sensitivity.