For the second year in a row, concessions on the Leaving Cert History paper have transformed it from a “quick writing test to one where students can think a lot more and put their knowledge on paper,” according to Niall Westman, a teacher. ‘ Representative of the Subject of the Union of Ireland (TUI).
Like all Leaving Cert exams this year, the disruption caused by Covid has meant extra choice and fewer questions to answer and, due to the amount of writing involved on paper, history is one of the subjects where teachers are particularly convinced of the benefits to students.
Instead of having to write three essays and answer another question, based on provided materials, in two hours and 50 minutes, in 2021 and 2022, students had to write two essays and answer one question based on materials in the same time lapse.
Mr Westman, from Mountmellick Community School, Co Laois, said it was a very fair exam, helped by the reduction in the number of essays to be written. He said with three essays “You can have very good students who write slowly and don’t do as well as they should”.
Susan Cashell, a teacher at the Institute of Education in Dublin, said the extra time was “such a bonus that it should be permanently adopted.
Philip Irwin, representing the Association of Secondary School Teachers of Ireland (ASTI), agreed that the concession given to pupils, which gave them more time to read and write, was “very good”.
Mr Irwin, of The High School, Rathgar, Dublin, liked the broad nature of the questions, which the students could ‘answer’ because of the extra time, although he said the one about the strengths and weaknesses of the he American economy between 1945 and 1989 was “daunting”.
On the other hand, Ms Cashell thought there was a good choice and ‘nice questions’ in the American section, including one on the economy and another on the development of race relations 1945-89.
The document-based question focused on the Coleraine University controversy in the 1960s, which played a background role in the Northern Troubles. The controversy centered on accusations that the city of Derry had been deliberately denied Northern Ireland’s second university for fear it would fuel Catholic assertiveness on civil rights issues.
The documents provided were an excerpt from the autobiography of the late Bishop Edward Daly, describing the reaction in Derry to rumors that the university was not located in the city and an article by the late trade unionist and human rights activist man, Inez McCormack, who was a student at the time. Mr Irwin said students would have been happy with ‘two good papers and good questions’.
Mr Irwin said that while there was no specific question about the Civil War, which started 100 years ago this month, there was a question about factors from the period 1912-1920 which led to the partition of Ireland.
Ms Cashell said the dictatorship section had enough choice to allow the well-prepared student to be able to answer a question, especially those about why Italy and/or Germany adopted the dictatorship. She added that. “those who had studied Stalin should be careful to note that the question included peace and war”.
Jamie Dockery, from Tyndall College, Co Carlow and Studyclix.ie, said the Ordinary Level exam ‘was a good exam which gave students who had prepared well the chance to get a good mark’.
He said it was particularly pleasing to see a number of issues relating to significant women who have contributed to Irish and world history with Isabella Tod, Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, Evie Hone, Maureen O’Hara, Leni Riefenstahl , Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret Thatcher and Betty Friedan among those making an appearance.