Number of students who got over 400 points on the rise


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The number of Leaving Certificate candidates scoring high points for college entry has jumped since the changes to the exam grading system and CAO points scale.

Figures from the CAO show that 11.9pc of students achieved between 500 to 599 points this year, compared with 9.6pc in 2016.

There are also other candidates with 600 points, and even more if they have the ‘honours’ maths bonus.

The total proportion of students with 500 or more is 13.2pc this year, compared with 9.9pc two years ago.

Meanwhile, 37.2pc of the class of 2018 have 400 points or more, up from 35.4pc in 2016.

At the other end of the spectrum, over the same period there has been a drop from 8.5pc to 6.5pc in the proportion of candidates awarded fewer than 100 points.

The figures are based on a student’s best six subjects for point scores, which is the basis for college entry via the CAO.

The grading and points changes introduced in 2017 have encouraged more students to aim higher, and go for the “honours” paper, without the fear of gaining no points at all in a subject, if their mark fell below 40pc.

Since last year, CAO applicants get 37 CAO points for a H7 grade, which is awarded for between 30-39pc in a higher level paper. That change took much of the credit for a 3.2pc rise in the uptake of higher level papers last year, a trend that continued in 2018, although not at the same rate.

It remains to be seen how this will play out in the minimum points needed for entry to college courses when the CAO issues Round One offers next Monday.

College entry is complicated by the fact that students may need minimum grades in certain subjects even before points are counted. So while a student may get 37 points for achieving 39pc at higher level, the grade may not be sufficient to qualify for a course. The upward trend in points for high-achieving students was evident last year and, while many courses saw an increase in points, there were also widespread falls.

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Even where points for individual courses vary between years, as is the norm, the restructured grading and points regime has reduced the possibility for wild fluctuations.

As the Leaving Cert results were absorbed, the Institute of Physics (IOP) expressed concern about the low number of physics teachers.

IOP chair Professor David Riley said while Leaving Cert candidate numbers were stable there was an urgent need for more teachers to sustain the pipeline of physics graduates.

“Last year only 41 new physics teachers registered with the Teaching Council – a huge imbalance in the numbers qualified in physics compared to other sciences, with physics teachers making up just 17pc of the cohort of science teachers.”

He said the number of registered physics teachers in Ireland stood at 1,259 compared to 2,376 chemistry teachers and 3,878 registered biology teachers. He called on Education Minister Richard Bruton to urgently review the matter and to implement IOP proposals to address what he described as a crisis, noting that in England a similar situation was being tackled with some success

Prof Riley said that physics had “a critical role to play in Ireland, with physics-based industries providing over 287,000 jobs and €38bn annually to the Irish economy”.

Meanwhile, IOP Ireland policy adviser Dr Sheila Gilheany said the uptake of physics by girls in Ireland remained stubbornly low at school level with only about a quarter of the Leaving Certificate numbers being female.

Engineers Ireland welcomed continued growth in the number of students sitting the higher level maths and also noted a small increase in candidates sitting higher level biology.

However, Engineers Ireland registrar Damien Owens highlighted concerns that the number of students taking other science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects “has not seen a marked increase for the first time in several years”.

Irish Independent

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