| 14.6°C Dublin

English Paper II: Boland still puts students through mill

At last, the wait was over. Much to the delight of candidates, Eavan Boland finally made her long-anticipated appearance on Leaving Cert English Paper II, although it was at a cost.

The examiners "didn't give anything away too cheaply", said Alan Thompson of the Teachers' Union of Ireland and Abbey Vocational School in Donegal town.

It was, he said, "probably the most difficult of the four poetry questions. She was such a certainty they wanted to guard against prepared answers."

Still, the general view was that students were delighted, not only with Boland, but with the entire paper.

"Over the moon" is how Michael Doherty of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana, Co Donegal, described the reaction to Boland's appearance.

He explained student obsession with Boland as a mix of her being Irish, of liking her poetry and of working out the permutations of who had and hadn't appeared in earlier years

Jim Lusby, of Dublin's Institute of Education, was full of praise for the prescribed poetry.

"The questions were intelligently framed, inviting explorations of both style and content, while encouraging and rewarding personal reflection," he said.

However, the choice of unseen poem 'Poetry', by Leanne O'Sullivan, drew a mixed reaction.

Mr Doherty said pupils were very happy with the poem and the questions. "It was very accessible, they were able to get meaning on first reading," he added.

Mr Thompson said some students reported that the language was a "little bit dense" which made it difficult for them to get to the heart of the poem, but the questions were fine.

'Hamlet' was the Shakespeare play and Mr Doherty thought the question on the combined theme of justice and revenge was probing and challenging.


Mr Lusby said the suggestion that 'revenge' and 'justice' were finely balanced was thought-provoking, and described the proposal in the alternative 'Hamlet' question that the murderer Claudius had some redeeming qualities was challenging.

Ordinary-level pupils were also treated to a " a very nice paper and they were very happy", said Mr Thompson.

Mr Doherty added that those pupils were "very positive" and a particularly popular choice was Patrick Kavanagh's 'A Christmas Childhood', "which they love".

Irish Independent