Monday 20 November 2017

'It's important for the house to be as calm as possible'

Suck it up and smile - your role is a thankless one, with rewards that are nebulous and sadly not guaranteed, says LC parent Katy McGuinness

Katy McGuinness
Katy McGuinness

'No mum, please do ask me again how study's going. I'd really like to have a chat about it."

My daughter's Yik Yak post got her 40 'upvotes', so I think we can assume that she's not the only one in the neighbourhood feeling the pressure.

This is the season when, in the eyes of their exam children, parents can do no right. Accept that as a given, and you're halfway to surviving the next few weeks.

So, even if the answer to your caring enquiry as to whether there is anything you can do is a succinct, "just shut up," you mustn't take offence. Suck it up and smile, for your role these days is a thankless one, with rewards that are nebulous, and sadly not guaranteed.

I'm on my third Leaving Cert this year (fourth if I count my own), and there are college and school exams going on too. Exams cast a pall over a house, with everyone wishing away the weeks of early summer because we can't wait for the last paper to be over.

But being a good exam parent is part of the job description. It's not rocket science, but it takes up an awful lot of time. And it's expensive. If you've been stumping up for grinds all through the school year, you'll already be broke. But last-minute extra grinds can be confidence-boosting, so it's not the time to pull the plug.

Most Leaving Cert students have precious little going on in their lives other than the exams, so food and mealtimes assume an overwhelming importance. That means catering to dietary whims, and buying whatever vitamin supplements they request.

From my own observation, half of LC students are on a no-carb regimen to get them in shape for Magaluf, have commandeered the family Nutribullet and all its containers, and haven't eaten a sandwich in months.

The other half are covered in spots and eating junk for Ireland. Whichever camp yours falls into, they'll need treats, but try to make them the kind of fruits that are usually an indulgence rather than chocolate and crisps. (I did say that this was going to be expensive.)

In the last few weeks coming up to the exams, it's good for there to be someone in the house as much as possible. For the student, the presence of another human is comforting, even if they don't feel like talking. A walk before bedtime, even if it's just for 20 minutes, a cup of sleepy tea and a few drops of lavender oil on the pillow all help with sleep.

It's important for the house to be as calm as possible, and for everyone to co-operate with keeping noise to minimum. That means holding off on hosting the book club in your house between now and when the exams are over, and postponing that dinner party. It'll keep you off the wine too, which is a good thing when tempers are frayed and fuses short. If it's possible to take time off work during the exams, do. Devoting yourself to minding and chauffeuring the student is one of the kindest things that you can do. Dropping them to the exam centre and being there to pick them up takes away the stress of transport delays, and also removes them from a situation where they have to talk about a paper afterwards.

There's nothing worse than the exam post-mortem. Once the paper's finished, there's no time to dwell on what went wrong. Listen sympathetically for a short while, magic up a positive spin and move on.

Come the last day, you may think that you can relax. But the end of exams celebration is a famously messy night, and you may be required to don your chauffeur's hat one last time. Spend the evening clearing up all those eggshells dotted around the house, while you wait for the phone call to come and rescue.

And save that good bottle of wine for the next day.


For both parents and students, it's important to have a clear idea of the Calendar of Key CAO and Leaving Cert dates over the next 4 months.

You should be familiar with your Leaving Certificate timetable and have a copy of it over your desk at home and in your phone, if possible. It should be posted on the family noticeboard.

Keep the following information to hand: Information on Leaving Certificate results, the Appeals Process, final order of CAO Choice, anything relating to Grant Applications or HEAR & DARE applications (if relevant).

Advice for parents

Be supportive and encouraging. 

Work with your child to assist them in making a realistic and mature decision, based on the best available information at the time.

Ask questions.

Listen and discuss subjects, their CAO choices and options.

Good decisions are made with good information and self-knowledge in an open and upbeat environment.

Key dates

1st July 5.15pm: Final date for CAO Change of Mind, Course Amendment, Order of Course Choice.

Wednesday August 12th: Leaving Certificate results will be delivered to over 700 schools, and also from noon on

Monday, August 17th: The CAO releases round one offers to candidates. The offers are available online from 6am. Offer notices are sent by post to candidates to arrive on Monday August 17th also. Minimum points required for entry to each course are also published on the CAO website from 6am, and are printed in full in The Irish Independent.

Tuesday, August 18th: Leaving Cert students who wish to view examination scripts must return the application forms to their school by this date.

Monday, August 24th (5.15 pm): Closing date for receipt of acceptance of CAO round one offers.

Wednesday, August 26th: The CAO posts round two offers to applicants, to arrive by post on Thursday 27th. The minimum points required for entry to each course are on the CAO website at 6am on Thursday 27th, and are published in The Irish Independent

August 28th-29th: Students, together with one person of their choice, can view their scripts on the school premises. The scripts can only be viewed when the student is present.

Wednesday, September 2nd, 5.15pm: Closing date for receipt of acceptance of CAO round two offers. This is also the closing date for receipt of Leaving Certificate appeal applications to have papers remarked.

October 14th: Final Round CAO offers of places by the CAO will be made up to October 14th.

Irish Independent

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