Significant increase in top marks awarded to Leaving Cert agricultural science students

There was a significant increase in the percentage of top marks received by Leaving Certificate agricultural science students this year compared to 2019.

There was much excitement along with nerves for some 60,000 students who received the results of their Leaving Cert yesterday (Monday, September 7).

The overall number of students due to sit the examinations in 2020 was 60,419. However, due to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, calculated grades were issued to students.

According to the CAO, of the 60,419, 7,371 students did higher level agricultural science along with 1,129 doing ordinary level.

This compares to a total of 58,787 students who sat the Leaving Cert in 2019, with 6,604 doing higher level agricultural science and 1,141 doing ordinary level. This shows an overall increase in the amount of students who did the subject for Leaving Cert, with the total for 2020 being 8,500, compared to 7,745 in 2019.

Students receive grades in the format of H1 to H8 for higher level subjects and O1 to O8 for ordinary level subjects. In higher level, H1 is the highest grade that can be attained, while H8 is the lowest. In ordinary level, O1 is the highest and O8 is the lowest.

9.1% of students doing higher level agricultural science achieved a H1 this year, compared to 5% last year. 15.9% received a H2, up from 12.2% in 2019.

There was also a significant decrease in those who received lower grades – 0.8% received a H8 in 2020 compared to 7.3% in 2019. 2.9% received a H7, down from 12.7% the previous year.

At ordinary level, it is recorded that no students received an O1 in both 2018 and 2019; whereas in 2020, 0.8% received that grade. There was also a jump in the amount of H2s received, with 5.9% in 2020, up from 0.8% in 2019 and 0.6% in 2018.

Agriculture Courses In 2019

This year, the average marks across all subjects and at all levels in the Leaving Cert increased on average by 4.4% on last year. It is likely that this may lead to a CAO points increase for some courses.

Friday (September 11) will be the next big day for academic hopefuls around the country as Round One CAO offers will be available online from 2:00pm. There are a total of 78,168 applicants awaiting admission to third-level colleges through the CAO process.

AgriLand found earlier in the summer that the interest in third-level agriculture-related courses had dropped in 2020 compared to 2019.

One of the most significant differences this year is the 5% decrease in applicants opting for a Level 8 agricultural course as their first preference. There were 24 less applicants in 2020, bringing the figure down from 471 in 2019 to 447 in 2020.

There was a decrease of 2% in applicants mentioning an agricultural course further down their list, with this year’s number standing at 2,344 compared to 2,395 last year.

There was also less interest in Level 7/6 agricultural courses, with a 3% decrease in first preferences and a 5% decrease in total mentions.

However, the numbers for Level 8 veterinary courses are more positive, seeing an increase of 78 applicants putting a veterinary course on the top of their list, bringing last year’s figure from 886 to 946 this year, an increase of 9%.

Teacher raises concerns over curriculum

Meanwhile, an agricultural science teacher has raised concerns over current sixth-year students finishing the subject’s curriculum in time for Leaving Cert 2021.

Eddie Holton teaches agricultural science to second-level students at the Maynooth Education Campus.

Students have been out of the classroom since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, limiting their access to resources to do their chemistry experiments, music practice, history essays in libraries, and so on.

But, why is there commotion over how agricultural science students have specifically been impacted by the closure of schools?

Holton is raising concerns over the coming academic year – the potential that students’ capacity to complete practical projects will be inhibited by Covid-19.

I can talk in a classroom until the cows come home but the effect will never be to the extent of when the students get to go out and see the farm for themselves.

The new agricultural science curriculum was brought on board last year. Along with the limits of the pandemic, teaching was made even more difficult by delays in accessing the brief – which was only made available to teachers in December of 2020, when it was meant to be provided in September.