Maths failure rate in pilot scheme half national average
The failure rate for maths in a secondary school chosen to pilot a new way of teaching the syllabus was half the national average.
Karl O'Connell, deputy principal at the Community College in Caherciveen, Co Kerry, credited the Project Maths scheme for giving pupils more hands-on skills for the future.
"The old style of chalk and talk, where the teacher did all the work at the blackboard and the students looked up or didn't look up, is gone," he said.
"Now there are more worksheets and the students have to analyse the information themselves and develop problem-solving skills."
The maths teacher revealed just 5pc of the school's ordinary level pupils failed the subject - lower than the 5.4pc failure rate across 24 pilot schools and half the 10pc who failed to make the grade on the old syllabus.
"We also had about 15pc taking higher level maths," said Mr O'Connell.
"That's a healthy enough number and would be slightly up on other years and we are hoping to raise that.
"But it's always been a difficulty to get students to take higher level maths and taking science subjects like physics and chemistry. Those numbers have been dropping."
Some 1,818 candidates in 24 schools sat a different Paper 2 in mathematics as part of the Project Maths initiative.
Figures show 18.5pc took the higher level paper in these schools, compared with 16pc nationally.
Elsewhere, the failure rate at ordinary level was just 5.4pc in Project Maths, compared with 10pc nationally.
In the Community College in Caherciveen, 74 pupils took the Project Maths course, including former Young Entrepreneur of the Year Neasa Fitzpatrick, who achieved eight A1s. Elsewhere, 10 pupils who repeated the year took the old maths programme.
Mr O'Connell said almost a dozen dedicated teachers took on extra work and training over the past two years to deliver the new programme.
"The main thing is, it develops pupils' problem-solving skills," continued Mr O'Connell.
"The idea is to relate mathematics to everyday experiences and there is a whole lot of emphasis on the use of IT in mathematics."
The Department of Education said the new initiative is part of a major programme of reform designed to encourage better understanding of maths, to reinforce the practical relevance of maths to everyday life, and to ensure better continuity between primary and second level, and between junior and senior cycle.
The curriculum changes will be phased in over three years, with mainstreaming in all schools beginning in September.