Saturday 26 May 2018

Four students achieve 12 As in Junior Cert - despite overall drop in top results

However, new Junior Cert reforms pay off as students score higher in new-style English assessment

(stock image)
(stock image)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A total of four students achieved got 12 top grades this year - despite results for the Junior Certificate examinations showing a significant drop in the number of students achieving top marks.

More than 61,500 students receiving the results of the June exams today are the first to experience changes in the junior cycle experience, including a broader assessment process.

The results, out today, show four students got 12 As this year, compared to 10 who received 12 As in 2016.

Fifty-four students received 11 As or more in 2017, compared to 147 who received 11 As or higher last year.

Finally, a total of 240 students received top marks in 10 subjects or more this year, compared to 423 in 2016. This is a drop of 43 per cent.

However, the junior cycle reforms got off to a good start for pupils in the subject of English, with a higher number than usual scoring above 55pc in the new-style English written assessment, at both higher and ordinary level.

English is the first subject to have undergone a reform in teaching, learning, assessment and grading, with similar changes in other subjects being phased in over coming years.

Education Minister Richard Bruton led the congratulations to students, their parents and teachers, adding that it was “positive and encouraging to see the changes to the Junior Cycle coming to fruition”.

The employers’ body,  Ibec said it could be “the start of the single most radical educational change in decades” and called for similar changes in the Leaving Cert

Results are available in schools today and online at, from 4pm

The overall numbers sitting the exam increased by 2.3pc on last year, an indication of the continuing surge in pupils numbers at second-level.

Junior Cert Results 2017 (excluding English)
Junior Cert Results 2017 (excluding English)

As part of the reforms, this year also sees the replacement of the Junior Cert with the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA), which will record the results of the June exams as well as other student achievements, such as sporting or debating activities,  recorded in school.

In the case of English, the result students receive today incorporates the outcome the June exam – reduced in duration to two hours as part of the changes - and a written task, overseen by teachers  in schools, but marked by the State Examinations Commission.

A comparison of the results in English between 2017 and 2016 shows that at both levels, the proportion achieving 55pc,  or more, in the subject was 81-83pc, compared with about 76-77pc last year. However,  the boundaries between grades have changed, so it is not possible to make direct comparisons within tighter bands.

This year also saw an increase in the number of students taking the higher level English option, described as “encouraging by Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) president Joanne Irwin. She said the TUI would continue to analyse English and other subject areas to see what – if any – adjustments may need to be made in the future.

The JCPA will also record, under a separate heading, a student’s achievement in classroom based assessments, such as, in the case of English, an oral presentation, which was graded by teachers.

However because of the lengthy campaign of opposition to the junior cycle changes the Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI), its members refused to co-operate with such assessments.  As a result, when they receive their JCPA later this term, some students may have blank space in those  boxes.

The ASTI opposition to the junior cycle changes ended in June.

The junior cycle reform will be phased in until 2020. Last year, first years were introduced to the new formats in  science and business,  and, this month, Irish, modern foreign languages and visual art, were  rolled out in schools.  The new area of learning, called wellbeing, was also introduced this month.

Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, has welcomed the publication of results under the new junior cycle as “an important landmark in education reform.”.

Ibec head of education and social policy, Tony Donohoe said the “economy and our prosperity are intrinsically linked to the strength of our education system and, in reforming the junior years of second-level education, we will deliver better outcomes for our students and help underpin our long-term prosperity.”

He said the new curriculum gave teachers the space to be innovative and provide a more rounded education experience to their pupil and should also equip students with the skills and appetite for continuous learning.

“This reform could mark the start of the single most radical educational change in decades. We urge the Government to now introduce new curricula and assessment methods to the Leaving Certificate as soon as possible.

“Moving away from the dominance of rote learning and written exams will help develop critical thinking skills, that are required in the modern workplace, from an early age.”

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