Thursday 22 August 2019

Leaving Cert English Higher Level Paper 1 'a radical but welcome development'

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Leaving Certificate English higher level students kicked off the exams today with "a radical paper in its approach to the subject," according to teacher Jim Lusby.

He said it contained "a long overdue and extremely welcome development - for the first time ever, a compulsory link with English Paper 2."

Mr Lusby noted that Question 2 on each of the three set texts asked candidates to draw material from their studies in the prescribed literature for Paper 2.

A teacher at Dublin’s Institute of Education, he said it introduced  “what should be obvious, but can be obscured by setting separate English papers: there is no division between language and literature”.

To facilitate this radical development, Mr Lusby said the texts on the paper avoided being problematic in any way.

They were on the theme of young writers and he described the texts as “relevant, but accessible”.   

They included an extract from Irish novelist Colum McCann’s book of advice to young writers, an extract from the 2017 Booker Prize shortlisted novel by young English writer Fiona Mozley, and an illustrated poem by First World War poet, Isaac Rosenberg, who was killed on the Western Front in 1918.

Mr Lusby went on to say that “to complement this perfect balance between texts and tasks in the Comprehension section, the range of essays in the Composing section is undoubtedly the most intelligent ever.”

He said “each title invites, and will reward, the thoughtful and creative use of language – surely the primary objective of any English examination.

“They include stimulating, and precisely described, short stories, discussions, personal essays and descriptive exercises.”

Overall, he said it was an “examination paper that restores the balance between expression and study, between reading and writing, between language and pleasure”.

Yeats College Galway teacher Sinead Caslin Cregg said, overall, students were pleased with  the paper, the theme of which was young writers.

While the link to Paper 2” threw some students”, she said questions were manageable once the candidates gathered their thoughts”.

According to Ms Caslin "apart from this slight curveball, the paper was actually very fair and reasonable" with "lovely comprehension texts" and essay titles that were "very fair and offered lots of choice".

She said a discursive essay on leadership was a lovely topic for students who enjoy writing on current affairs, while the one on writing a speech was a “popular choice”.

Meanwhile, an enjoyable examination paper for ordinary level students was how teacher Jim Lusby described Leaving Certificate English Ordinary Level paper 1.

Mr Lusby, of Dublin’s Institute of Education, said the reading texts offered a wide range of topics and perspectives, "although with an amusing bias towards County Cork."

He said each text was engaging in itself and included extracts from the speech given at the United Nations by disability campaigner Joanne O’Riordan from Millstreet, Co Cork, when she was 16; an interview with Olympic rower, Gary O’Donovan, from Skibbereen, also  Cork; and an interview with Nobel Peace Prize winner, Kailash Satyarthi.

"The questions set on each text were stimulating, without containing any unwelcome surprises, and the range of essays in the Composing section was generous," he said.

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