The vast majority are now in transition year or fifth year, with this week’s OECD Education at a Glance 2017 report showing Ireland continues to have one of the developed world’s highest levels of school completion.
Among those with most to celebrate was Eimear Kennedy from Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare, one of four students who got the top grade in 12 subjects.
This includes a Distinction for 90% to 100% in the new grading for the revised Junior Certificate English programme, and an A in civil, social and personal education (CSPE)
“I can’t really believe it, the principal called me down to tell me,” she said, minutes after getting the wonderful news at St Caimin’s Community School in Shannon, Co Clare.
She was worried that she might not have done so well in some subjects, including Irish, but also the new-style exam in Junior Certificate English.
“There was definitely a lot of writing and they didn’t leave much time, but there wasn’t as much learning which suited me better,” said Eimear.
She managed to learn plenty, however, also getting top grades in maths, geography, history, science, home economics, business, CSPE, and religion.
She studied two foreign languages, but was taught only German at school.
Her A in Italian was a result of being entirely self-taught in the subject which is not on the curriculum at her school.
Principal Claire Knight said it was evidence of Eimear’s dedication and talent.
“She has and excellent rapport with all her teachers, it’s great to have a student who enjoys learning so much,” she said.
Eimear is also involved in St Vincent de Paul and debating, and plays basketball outside of school.
“It’s definitely good to have a balance and not to get too caught up in study 24-7.
“I think if you listen to your teachers in class and do your homework, that’s the main groundwork,” she said.
Isobel Quirk, from Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, also got top grades in 12 subjects when she got her results at Ursuline Secondary School in Thurles, Co Tipperary.
“I’m in shock, I didn’t really expect it at all really,” she said.
Like Eimear, 15-year-old Isobel kept a good balance between study and personal activities last year, including tennis, ballet, hockey, drama, to name just some.
At Millstreet Community School in north Cork, another student achieved the same top marks.
Principal Pat Piggott said the school community is delighted with the results of all 40-plus students, and congratulated them and their teachers.
The fourth student with 12 top grades did their Junior Certificate at Summerhill College in Sligo.
Although there was an increase in numbers taking higher level in most Junior Certificate subjects, the very top grade was harder to come by than in 2016.
The number of students with at least one A fell by more than 3% to 21,833.
But there are 14% fewer students with the top grade in six or more subjects at higher level or common level (when CSPE is included), down from 2,946 to 2,590 since last year.
English has been the first subject in which a revised curriculum was rolled out, with corresponding changes to how students are assessed, including two classroom-based assessments.
An assessment task based was worth 10% of marks in the Junior Certificate, the first time that the entire marks in the subject have not been for the final written exam.
The changes are also now being phased in for students in business studies and science, to be assessed in the new way when current second-year students do the Junior Certificate in 2019.