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Leaving Cert results: More than 4,000 pupils fail maths


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Weaker maths pupils are struggling to make the grade as the national focus shifts to supporting higher-level students.

Fail rates in maths among Leaving Certificate ordinary- level students have bounced back up to almost 10pc this year.

And despite the recent focus on higher-level maths, there has been a sharp rise in the numbers opting for the basic, foundation-level paper.

In total, just over 4,000 students across the three levels including foundation failed to secure a minimum D grade, meaning a failure.

The trends at ordinary level take some of the shine off positive results at higher level - with a record 28pc of candidates taking the 'honours' paper.

An increased uptake of science subjects physics and chemistry was also welcomed, although the employers' organisation Ibec is worried about a decline in pupils studying foreign languages - which are increasingly needed in the modern workplace.

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) releases results to almost 58,500 students today, including six high achievers who each scored eight A1s.

Education Minister Richard Bruton led the congratulations for candidates, welcoming the continuing rise in students sitting the 'honours' maths paper, up from 16pc in 2011.

Mr Bruton's advice to students who felt that they may not have done as well as they had hoped is "that all is not lost".

He said they should take time to look at all the options open to them that could "lead them to a chosen career path".

But the maths conundrum remains a problem for the education sector after experimentation with bonus points and the new Project Maths syllabus.

Fail rates in ordinary-level maths generally hover around 9pc - but fell to below 6pc last year, after a difficult exam.

The unusually low below-D rate triggered speculation that the examiners went easy on the marking after the upset caused in the June exams.

However, this year the proportion of candidates not achieving the D grade once again rose to more than 9pc, leaving almost 3,000 students without a 'pass'.

This is considered a necessary entry requirement for many college courses.

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The stubbornly high fail rate raises continuing questions about the teaching and learning of the subject, and whether the much-vaunted Project Maths is making any difference.

The high failure rate is also compounded by the huge increase in the number of students stepping down from ordinary level to take foundation-level maths.

This year, 6,478 students sat foundation level - a big jump from 5,613 last year - which amounts to 12pc of all maths candidates.

Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) president Betty McLaughlin said she believed the trend was down to a "fear of failure and a perception that failing maths means failing the Leaving Cert".

At higher level, the surge in students taking the 'honours' paper is attributed to the 25 CAO bonus points awarded if they achieve a minimum D grade. While the higher- level maths gamble paid off for 95.4pc of students, some 700 candidates fell short of the line. This will exclude them from many third-level courses, although the fail rate fell slightly on last year.

Ibec senior policy executive Claire McGee said a further fall in students taking foreign languages was a worry.

"As the second most globalised economy in the western world, language skills are critical for businesses with ambitions to increase international trade and exports."

She said that only 44pc of students who sat the Leaving Cert took French, while about 13pc took German. A decade ago, some 51pc of candidates sat French, and more than 14pc sat German.

Ms McGee said the decline showed the urgent need for an innovative foreign languages education strategy to improve uptake.

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