Rise in Leaving Cert numbers set to drive up CAO applications
A rise in Leaving Cert student numbers this year could drive up points for college entry on popular courses.
It will be some months before the final candidate figures are available, but it is understood an increase of 3pc, or slightly more, is on the cards.
It is the first significant increase in Leaving Cert exam candidates in many years and expected to translate into more CAO applications.
The ups and downs of CAO points from one year to another are a consequence of demand for any given course.
Students have until February 1 to finalise their CAO applications and it will be early March before the 2019 application trends are known.
But with more students sitting the Leaving Cert, it seems inevitable that there will be increased demand in many areas.
The climb in Leaving Cert numbers follows a surge at Junior Cert level where, between 2015 and 2017, the number of candidates rose from 59,522 to 61,654. It comes against a backdrop of rising enrolments at second-level, which is set to continue into the mid-2020s.
The last few years has brought a slowdown in the points race, attributed to changes in the Leaving Cert grading system and the way CAO points are allocated.
It has seen fewer dramatic jumps in points - although some courses have experienced significant rises - while points for many courses have remained steady or have fallen.
However, for the first two years of the new grading and points regimes, Leaving Cert numbers were stable, while 2019 presents a different scenario.
Against the rise in school-leaver numbers, the ongoing roll-out of new apprenticeships is creating a variety of career paths and may encourage more students to consider those options. That would take some heat out of the CAO race, although the impact may be limited.
Discussions have started with a view to finalising arrangements for the release of Leaving Cert results and CAO round one offers.
Not all third-level colleges were happy with arrangements announced to publish round one offers on Friday, August 16, because of the need to have staff available over the weekend, and the discussions are exploring the possibility of bringing it forward to Thursday, August 15.