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'We are kidding ourselves if we say the Leaving Cert doesn't matter'

Pressure is on schools to receive top results, writes principal Brendan Feehan.

Brendan Feehan

Both schools and students alike are under pressure to deliver high marks. Good results do matter but a little balance and perspective can go a long way on the day, writes school principal Brendan Feehan.

TODAY IS LIKE no other day in the school calendar. The journey has reached its conclusion; the Leaving Cert results are finally out, and for students, teachers and schools alike the prevailing emotion is one of relief.

Some students will, naturally, be feeling happier than others on this landmark day. That’s the way it goes.

Some will be feeling disappointment, having come up short in the results they were hoping for. Others will be bouncing off the rooftops in sheer elation. And many more will be simply satisfied: job done, now on to a new adventure.

It’s the students at the top end of the spectrum, of course, that grab most of the media headlines. Last year one of our students, Matthew Kavanagh, achieved an incredible eight A1s, one of the best Leaving Cert results in the country and the media interest was phenomenal.

Does this take from the other students who didn’t get the top results but yet achieved their own personal highs?I hope not.

However the fact remains that the A1’ers will always be students of interest. It is brilliant exposure both for the student, and the school itself.

Pressure is on schools to receive top results. Academic achievement is still as important as ever and is most often the first question that parents will ask when deciding upon a secondary school for their son or daughter.

The Leaving Certificate format has its critics, often cited as an exercise in rote learning. Having said that, decades worth of student’s have gone through the system and hundreds of thousands have gone on to achieve success in their professional careers, all stemming from the Leaving Certificate examinations they sat when they were 17 and 18.

I don’t align myself to be an absolute advocate of the system but we would be kidding ourselves if we say ‘It didn’t matter’ – of course it does, strong academic results are necessary in getting on the next step of the ladder and I do believe that the Leaving Cert is one of the most important exams a person will sit in their lifetime.

As today’s results come filtering through, there will be more outstanding performances to marvel at – perfect scores, multiple A1s, golden tickets that open many doors. Under the white-hot pressure of exam preparation, these young people have knuckled down and realised their academic potential in stunning, spectacular style. I salute them all.

Academic achievement is important

Schools naturally place a very strong emphasis on academic achievement. It’s indeed part of the fabric of our own school going back more than 100 years. We do everything in our power to make sure our students have the best possible chance of ‘success’, which in purely academic terms boils down to results.

In helping students through the journey that is secondary school, we are very mindful that each one is an individual with unique talents, strengths and weaknesses. Not every student has the capacity to be top of the class – just as not every student is good at rugby, or interested in information technology.

Some, of course, are naturally gifted at whatever they turn their hand to. Matthew Kavanagh didn’t just get eight A1s in his Leaving – he also found the time to captain our Senior Schools Championship winning hurling team! Likewise, our students on this year’s historic Leinster Senior Schools Cup-winning rugby team and All Ireland hurling winners have achieved excellent results today.

A balanced approach to academic performance and holistic education produces rounded, confident and disciplined young adults who can think for themselves and who are not afraid of a challenge. In a world that is changing all the time, faster and faster, those are valuable life skills indeed.

Schools and students alike are under pressure to deliver high marks but we believe that balance is everything.

For today, though, the pressure is off. The results are out and a celebration with family and friends is in order. Whatever it says on those pieces of paper, every student has worked, worried and waited for this day, and I want to say well done to each and every one of you. You’ve got so much to look forward to. Enjoy it all.

Brendan Feehan is President and Principal of Cistercian College, Roscrea.

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