Leaving Cert Results: 'It hasn't really set in yet, I'm in shock' - Meet the students who achieved top marks
Record 13 students achieve eight new top H1 grade after CAO revamp
Greater uptake in higher level papers and a rise in students achieving the new top grade of H1
LEAVING Certificate results today show a leap in the number of students aiming for honours, attracted by the first overhaul of grading and CAO points in 25 years.
Almost all subjects saw an increase in the uptake of higher level papers, where for the first time, points are available for a grade of between 30pc-49pc.
There was a 3.2pc rise in the proportion of papers taken at higher level.
Among the 58,500 candidates who will be receiving results today, there is a record high achieving the top grade of H1 - meaning a score of between 90pc and 100pc, the equivalent of an old A1.
There are 13 star pupils with eight H1s, almost double last year's seven, and 63 with 7H1s, up from 47 last year.
Among those is Confey College student Ben Kelly who was taken by surprise this morning when he discovered he had achieved 8 H1s in his Leaving Cert results.
The Leixlip boy said he had expected to do well but not quite that well, and was "over the moon" with his fantastic achievement.
Top of the class Ben told Independent.ie he planned on studying Nano Science, Physics and Chemistry in Trinity.
"I've been interested in science from a fairly young age, and maths. It's a growing area with advancements in modern technology so that drew me to it," he said.
There was no grinds or extra classes for Ben, who believed old-fashioned hard work was the recipe for success.
Ben's mother Sharon was extremely proud of her son's achievements, and said she was "blown away" by Ben's brilliant results.
"He did this by himself, he is a normal child in a normal school, he just put his head down. We are absolutely blown away with him," she said.
Ben is looking forward to celebrating with his friends in Dublin later tonight.
Elizabeth Bulger was shaking with disbelief this morning after getting her results.
The student from Loreto College, Stephen's Green in Dublin got her perfect score, totalling 625 points.
Now part of a very exclusive club, the Rathmines local said she was in total shock.
"I feel so happy, it's over - I couldn't sleep at all last night and was just talking online," she told Independent.ie
Her mother, who was bursting with pride outside the school said quietly: "I don't want to be blowing my own trumpet, but my daughter just got 8H1s."
The 18-year-old plans to study maths and business in Trinity college later this year.
Loreto principal Jackie Dempsey congratulated Ms Bulger in her astounding achievement.
"She worked very hard throughout of the year and we're all very proud of her," she said.
Another academic superstar is 17-year-old Muhammad Mahmoud from Ballycullen, Dublin.
The Ashfield College student said he has a busy morning since getting his results.
“It’s been a busy day so far. I’m delighted with my results. I worked hard over the years. I studied a lot and I stayed after school for study too. I put in a lot of effort and you get out what you put in,” he said.
He got the highest obtainable grade in English, Mathematics, Geography, French, Applied Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology.
Muhammad also prepared for his HPAT exam in Ashfield College, Dundrum and hopes to start Medicine in UCD in two weeks’ time.
“My parents are delighted. My mum really motivated me and I got a lot of support from all the teachers in Ashfield College,” he said.
He doesn’t know what his plan is for the night but will probably meet up with his friends.
“Not many of them know yet but the ones that do have congratulated me and I thanked them for that. Hopefully more will know as it’s early in the morning and news will spread,” Muhammad added.
He said he also went to the gym a couple times a week to take a break from his studies.
Ashfield College principal, John Winters, said: “We are delighted for Muhammad and it is a completely deserved result
“From the moment that Muhammad joined us in 5th year he applied himself to the task of achieving excellent results, was engaged in class and with his peers. We have many exceptional Leaving Certificate results here today but Muhammad’s is a stand out.”
Oisin McEnroe from Sandycove, Dublin got his eight H1s in three sciences, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Design and Computer Graphics and French.
“I’m really delighted and very happy,” the 18-year-old student added.
The high achiever from Blackrock College also plays piano and double bass.
"My family and friends are all very happy for me," he said.
Oisin attributed his success to "lots of study" and now aims to start Theoretical Physics in Trinity.
He’s already been inter-railing after his Leaving Cert to Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Krakow but plans to take a family holiday in Lisbon before starting college.
Another Dubliner Ben Healy, from Killcock, Co Dublin studied at Castleknock College and opened the results at the school this morning.
Ben (18) told Independent.ie he was "shocked" by the 8H1s he received in his Leaving Certificate this morning at Castleknock College.
"I was shocked. I thought I'd do well but I didn't think I'd do that well," he told Independent.ie.
He studied English, Irish, Maths, Biology, Chemistry, German, Applied Maths and History at the school and is looking forward to attending UCD in September and celebrations later.
"I'm looking to study Economics and Finance at UCD. I'm going to meet up with relatives soon and go in to town with my friends later. It's great."
Principal Oliver Murphy told Independent.ie that he was delighted for Ben, who is a "lovely kid".
"I'm ecstatic and over the moon for Ben. He's so unassuming and a real gentleman. He's such a lovely kid," said Mr Murphy.
Ben won the school's 'Student of the Year' prize this year, so it came as no surprise to the principal that he was so successful in his exams.
"I taught one class a week with Ben and I'd ask him if he had a question because sometimes he'd just stop what he was doing and he'd say: 'No, I'm just thinking. He was such a deep thinker and so kind," he added.
Limerick teenager Laura Stack said she was "definitely not" expecting to receive 8H1s when she opened her Leaving Certificate results this morning.
The 18-year-old studied English, Irish, Maths, French, Business, Music and Biology at Hazelwood College, Drumcolliher, Co Limerick.
"I was delighted with the results and definitely not expecting them. I really wasn't. My parents are delighted. They're probably happier than I am," she told Independent.ie.
The teenager managed to balance this academic success throughout the year while playing camogie for the Limerick Minor County team. She hopes to study a "business or maths" related course in Trinity College Dublin in September.
"I've mixed feelings about starting college. I'm nervous and excited about it. It'll be a change," she added.
Principal Brendan Burke said he was very proud of Laura's excellent results.
"We're so proud of Laura's outstanding results. She's very athletic as well. She's a great student and it's well-deserved."
It was "sheer joy" for Jack Synnott from Termonfeckin, Co Louth when he received 8 H1s in his Leaving Cert results this morning.
The St Oliver Community College, Drogheda student told the Independent.ie he was "over the moon" when he opened up the fateful envelope earlier today.
"I'm over the moon, I'm still on cloud nine. It hasn't really set in yet, I'm in shock," he said.
"I didn't expect it, I did put in a lot of work but when I came out of the exams, I was a little bit worried about all of them, there was always something that I felt might bring me down! So I was quite nervous but when I opened the envelope it was sheer joy and relief that I didn't have to worry about it anymore."
High achiever Jack (17) also did a ninth subject, Applied Maths, in which he received a H3 grade.
Having studied Spanish, History, Biology, Business, Physics, and Applied Maths, Jack is now hoping he will receive an offer for Law and Politics in Trinity College Dublin.
Jack explained it was a tough decision to choose a course, but decided on one that would leave many career options open to him.
"I'm hoping to study Law and Politics in Trinity. I found it difficult to choose a course because I'm so interested in so many different things, so there was loads of courses I wanted to do," he said.
"I'm particularly interested in the politics side of things, and felt it was a good course that could lead me down loads of different avenues, I wouldn't have to decide my whole life plan from the degree."
Tonight, Jack is looking forward to a family dinner and maybe a trip to the cinema.
Principal of St Oliver's Community College Mr John Halpin said the school knew Jack was an "outstanding student" from the moment he walked through the doors in first year.
Involved in plays and extra-curricular activities, Mr Halpin said bright student Jack was a credit to the school.
"Jack has been an outstanding student, we knew he was outstanding from the outset. He has added so much to our school, it's a tremendous achievement," he said.
"He got his results without doing any grinds, it was purely the support of his parents, the teachers in the school and above all else Jack himself. He was a sensational student."
A student of St Gerard's School, Bray Co Wicklow, Hilary Gallagher (18) is a true all-rounder.
She was Vice Captain of her hockey team in the Leinster Cup Final during sixth year, and the Delgany girl said her top results took her by surprise.
"I didn't really know what to expect, I had worked hard all year but nobody knows until your results are there in front of you," she told Independent.ie
"It was nice to see that I worked hard for something and it paid off. My school were so supportive, my teachers were always so helpful."
With a passion for figures and sums, Hilary is hoping go on to study Economics and Finance in UCD.
"I'm hoping to Economics and Finance because I love working with numbers, and maths has been my passion since I was younger. The maths department in my school has been exceptional, it has really developed my love for it."
"I studied applied maths, chemistry, accounting, biology, and French, so it was a maths-based Leaving Cert which is the logical way my brain works. It was nice to have the mix of language in there too," she said.
Headmaster of St Gerard's Tom Geraghty explained it was a very successful year for the school, with Hilary being one of eight students who received over 600 points in the class of 2017.
"What she did was exceptional. We push the academics very much in the school and we have 48pc of the Leaving Cert class over 500 points, it's quite remarkable," he said.
"She's a phenomenal student. We had 84 students doing the Leaving Cert and we are really proud of all our students."
Kate Collins had made no plans to celebrate - because she was so worried about her results.
She needn't have been.
Kate (18) studied English, Irish, Maths, German, Applied Maths, History, Physics and Chemistry at Holyfaith Secondary School School in Clontarf, Dublin - and got top marks.
She told Independent.ie about the worry she had felt in the lead up to results day.
She said: "I really wasn't expecting it because I didn't get those results in the mocks. I was really worried about Applied Maths. My whole class were worried but we all did well.
"We hadn't made any plans but everyone is really happy so we'll go out tonight to celebrate."
The teenager hopes to study History and Political Science at Trinity College Dublin and is looking forward to starting university in September.
"It's been such a tough year but it's over now. I can't wait for college. I'm delighted," she added.
Principal of Holyfaith, Deirdre Gogarty said that she is "extremely proud" of Kate's achievement.
"I'm extremely proud of Kate and all of our students. They always do great."
Two of the other high achievers went to Colaiste Eoin in Stillorgan in Dublin, while one went to Confey College in Kildare and another to Clongowes in the same county.
The school of the 13th student was not released.
Overall, there were 6,694 candidates who achieved at least one H1, up 5pc on last year's 6,367, even though candidate numbers overall are only up by 0.1pc.
There will be winners and losers in the new system, the full impact of which will not be evident until the CAO offers are made on Monday.
The rise in the number of candidates achieving at the highest level could put pressure on points for high demand courses.
But others will feel the loss of a grading scale that moved up in steps of five. The new, wider bands require a 10pc jump to reach the next highest grade.
However, some CAO courses will see an easing in points.
Education Minister Richard Bruton welcomed the increased uptake at higher level under the revised system.
But the higher level gamble did not pay off for all, and some pupils may have fared better on points had they stuck at ordinary level.
However, educationalists contend that learning at higher level develops thinking skills and prepares students better for third-level study.
The new regime has ended the days when students got no points for a subject if they did not achieve at least 40pc, as they are now awarded 37 points for getting 30pc-39pc.
However, some of those aiming higher may have sacrificed points of 46 or 56, which are awarded for the top grades at ordinary level.
In a strict comparison, more students sitting higher level got less than 40pc this year than last year in some of the big subjects:
- In English, 1,162 candidates out of 38,749 compared with 439 out of 36,576 last year.
- In Irish, 486 out of 22,122 compared with 120 last year out of 20,097.
- In maths 1,360 out of 16,395 compared with 684 out of 15,198.
- In physics, 1,116 out of 6,271 compared with 612 out of 6,003 students last year.
But unlike last year, those who get 30pc-39pc, or a H7 grade, at higher level will be doubly rewarded.
As well as getting the 37 points, the H7 - which is deemed to be the equivalent of an ordinary level O3 grade - allows them to meet the minimum entry requirements for a large number of college courses.
Meanwhile, the grading changes are expected to lead to an increase in applications to view exam scripts, to see where marks were won or lost.
Candidates will want to see how far off the next grade they are, but the wider bands are likely to lessen the chances of a successful appeal.
National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) director Clive Byrne welcomed the changes for removing some of the ambiguity and pressure of the previous grading system and how it encouraged students to take subjects at higher level.
The continuing rise in the number of students taking higher level maths has been welcomed by the employers' body, Ibec. Claire McGee, Ibec senior executive for Innovation and Education Policy, said the Government should incentivise key subjects, and move towards inquiry and experiential based learning to match skills to business needs.