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Covid is welcome... when it appears on Leaving Cert Biology papers

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Leaving Certificate students Aidan Fogarty, Juliet Mulcahy and Robbie Geary from Gaelcholaiste Luimnigh who completed the Irish paper yesterday. Photo: Don Moloney

Leaving Certificate students Aidan Fogarty, Juliet Mulcahy and Robbie Geary from Gaelcholaiste Luimnigh who completed the Irish paper yesterday. Photo: Don Moloney

Leaving Certificate students Aidan Fogarty, Juliet Mulcahy and Robbie Geary from Gaelcholaiste Luimnigh who completed the Irish paper yesterday. Photo: Don Moloney

For once, Covid was welcome – when it turned up on both Leaving Cert Biology papers.

Mairéad Glynn, a Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) subject representative, described both papers as “very fair”.

With reference to the Covid questions, Ms Glynn, of Scoil Mhuire, Strokestown, Co Roscommon, said it was “nice to see the link being made; it reinforces the relevance of Leaving Cert biology in our lives”.

Siobhan Devaney, an Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) subject representative, also welcomed the “real world” questions about Covid. In a general comment on higher level, Ms Devaney, Wilson’s Hospital School, Co. Westmeath, said while there were a “few tricky questions” students had so much choice, “they could avoid anything they didn’t like.”

Luke Saunders, of studyclix.ie, felt that both papers “did a great job in allowing students to show off their learning.” He thought that “with some exceptions, the higher level questions were pitched to be slightly more difficult than in previous years.”

He said students found the level of detail required in some questions to be challenging.

"I think examiners understand, with more choice, students will have had the ability to really focus their study on a subset of topics and therefore set the questions to really focus on knowledge of the details.”

Wesley Hammond, of The Institute of Education, Dublin described the higher level exam as a “very clear paper with questions that were nicely phrased”.

He said some of the tougher topics such as genetics and plant reproduction were very manageable, because the questions were straightforward and easily interpreted.

Earlier in the day, students of both levels tackled Irish Paper 2. Both papers, which were well received, looked back on major events of 2020 but avoided mentioning Covid.

At higher level, the Black Lives Matter movement, Brexit, the US presidential election and the environment were among the topics to feature in the second comprehension piece. The alternative text was about the late John Hume, who died last year.

Eithne Coyne, of the ASTI, said the feedback from students about the higher level paper was “very positive”. Declan Glynn, TUI subject representative, described it as a “lovely paper.

Dr Michael Casey, of the Institute of Education, said the higher level paper “gave students ample opportunity to demonstrate their literary knowledge and rewarded students who took the time to reflect on the questions at hand rather than summarising.” 

He said while the text on John Hume “looked tough" , on closer inspection the vocabulary was familiar.


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