Wednesday 21 March 2018

WB Yeats is unseen – but Paul Durcan’s appearance brings ‘huge sighs of relief’

Katherine Donnelly finds great expectations are met as Day Two is deemed challenging - but fair

Luke Brady and Desmond Matthews who took Higher Level English at St Paul’s College, Raheny, Dublin. Photo: Tony Gavin
Luke Brady and Desmond Matthews who took Higher Level English at St Paul’s College, Raheny, Dublin. Photo: Tony Gavin
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

LC English Higher P2

If Leaving Certificate English Higher Level candidates were disappointed not to see Yeats on Paper 2 in the centenary of 1916, the widely anticipated appearance of poet Paul Durcan brought "huge sighs of relief", according to teacher Liz Farrell.

"Most kids will have covered Durcan and they all enjoy him," said another teacher, Barry Hazel of Drimnagh Castle secondary school, Dublin and the ASTI.

It was a well-received paper generally, and Mr Hazel described the 'King Lear' questions as "brilliant" and "really inclusive", although he thought the Cultural Context question was "a little bit tricky".

Ms Farrell, of Coláiste Eoin, Hacketstown, Co Carlow and the TUI, described it as an "accessible and engaging paper with plenty of opportunity to answer enthusiastically".

She felt the only issue might have been the unseen poem, which, while it was a "lovely poem", she thought students would have found it challenging. Jim Lusby of the Institute of Education, Dublin, said while nothing unexpected appeared in terms of content, the paper contained remarkably specific and detailed questions.

He thought it challenged candidates to display not only a wide knowledge of the prescribed texts, but also an ability to give more or less equal treatment to a variety of aspects.

Mr Lusby said the character of the paper was best illustrated by the question set on Durcan, which required candidates to discuss three distinct aspects: 'narrative approach', 'a variety of issues' and 'great emotional honesty'. He questioned whether this approach was "asking too much of 1,000-word essays written in 50 or 60 minutes".

LC English Ordinary P2

The second Leaving Certificate English paper often causes a bit of student anxiety.

At three hours 20 minutes, it's a long exam, and students also agonise over what poets are going to come up, but, in the event, teachers agreed that candidates should have been happy when they sat down yesterday.

Teacher Liz Farrell, of Coláiste Eoin, Hacketstown, Co Carlow and the TUI, was pleased that two female poets, Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Bishop, came up in the prescribed poetry section.

It was unusual, but welcome, she said, "not to have just a token woman".

Ms Farrell said that overall the paper was lovely: "The language was very nice, it was well pitched to these students and there was nothing contentious."

Barry Hazel of Drimnagh Castle secondary school, Dublin, agreed, describing it as a "very accessible paper".

Similarly, Jim Lusby of the Institute of Education regarded it as "a comfortable exam paper for the well-prepared student, without confusion or surprises".

He said the questions in all sections were well thought out and clearly phrased.

It was, he said, "all as it should be for an eminently fair assessment of Ordinary Level candidates".

LC Engineering

There was more praise for the contemporary approach taken by examiners when setting papers; this time for a question on 3D printing on the Leaving Certificate Engineering Higher Level paper.

Teacher Eamonn Dennehy of Heywood Community School, Ballinakill, Laois, and the ASTI, was happy with both the higher and ordinary level papers, describing them as "student friendly".

With projects and practicals already out of the way, only 50pc of the marks were up for grabs in the higher level written paper, and 40pc at ordinary level.

Mr Dennehy said the higher level paper was well structured and followed the usual format.

But, he said, "students would have had to draw from their own experience and apply their learning to solve some of the problems posed".

He was impressed with the way the papers have evolved to reflect new technologies, noting the question on 3D printing at higher level.

"This is of growing importance in manufacturing methods, including for prosthetics, and this was referred to in the question on materials testing," he said.

Mr Dennehy said there was a good choice of questions on both papers and he praised the use of diagrams and graphics, which, he said, would help students put questions in context.

JC Irish

It was a challenging start to the day for Junior Cert Higher Level candidates with the first Irish paper, according to teachers.

Robbie Cronin of Marian College, Ballsbridge, Dublin and the ASTI, said students should have been happy enough with the essay choices, "although those who prefer to write about an incident that happened would probably be unhappy as it was more confined than normal".

He thought the language in the comprehension was very challenging and said one word in the listening comprehension (íobairt, which means sacrifice) was very difficult.

David Duffy of the TUI described Paper 1 as "an honours paper set for an honours student". While he regarded the grammar section as "more pro-student than in some previous years, the change in format, though well-intended, may have surprised some students".

He thought the afternoon paper was "student friendly". Mr Cronin said the most challenging part of a "fair" Paper 2 was the unseen prose about "Meath Vampires". However, the questions were reasonable and gave the students a fair chance of answering, he said.

Mr Duffy described the ordinary level paper as "fair".

Today's papers

Leaving Cert:

Geography (9.30am) and Maths Paper 1 (2pm)

Junior Cert:

Geography (9.30am) and Maths Paper 1 (2pm)

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