Tuesday 17 October 2017

Irish paper posted on teachers' forum, but test 'not compromised'

Students Padraig Nash and Louise Whyte after their Leaving Cert biology exam at O’Connell School, Dublin. Photo: Arthur Carron
Students Padraig Nash and Louise Whyte after their Leaving Cert biology exam at O’Connell School, Dublin. Photo: Arthur Carron

A probe is under way over a breach of security after the Leaving Certificate Higher level Irish Paper 2 was posted on Facebook while the exam was still going on.

The paper turned up on a forum hosted by teachers of Irish about an hour after the exam began. Around 3,000 teachers are members of the group.

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) said it was looking into the matter and described it as "a breach of protocol".

However, the release of the paper could not have worked to the benefit of any student, as candidates may not enter the exam centre after 30 minutes following the start of the exam.

The SEC said it was satisfied that the release of the paper had not compromised the integrity of the exam.


Despite the controversy, it was smiles all around at Colaiste Iosagain in Dublin after students completed the paper.

The principal of the all-girls Irish secondary school in Booterstown, Fiona Ui Uighinn, told the Herald there was a "positive reaction" to a "very clear and fair paper".

"Students were given a good opportunity to give a good account of themselves with adequate preparation," she said.

The second Irish test of the week saw students tackle reading comprehensions on the war in Syria and the refugee crisis, as well as the foundation of TG4.

"The reading comprehensions were topical and relative to the students' lives," said Ms Ui Uighinn.

Ms Ui Uighinn also felt there were no surprises when it came to poetry on the "well-thought-out paper".

"I wouldn't say predict- able, but very fair," she said.

Overall, the paper received a positive verdict, and Ms Ui Uighinn thought students would not have had too many difficulties with the questions.

"I also have experience of working in English medium schools, and I would say it was very accessible," she said. "There were no difficulties."

There was a big emphasis on ecology when it came to the biology paper yesterday afternoon, according to Robbie Harrold, who teaches at Malahide Community School, with questions on the topic appearing in all three sections.

In what he deemed "a modern and current" paper, students were quizzed on the Zika virus and the artificial growth of grass on a football pitch.

A question inspired by the recent controversy over the Poolbeg incinerator in Dublin also appeared on the paper.

"There wasn't many of the old reliables," he said.

Mr Harrold said this was an emerging trend for biology papers, which were now "testing students' knowledge in new, current situations".

He added that there were many questions relating "function to structure", and this applied to questions on the nervous system, the eyes and the kidneys.

Overall, the paper was "challenging" and may have thrown up a few difficulties.

"Students may have had difficulty with the term 'asepsis' and might have been more familiar with 'asepsate'," he said.

"They have modernised the questions."

However, he was concerned that, with such an "open" paper, students may have given examples that were correct but may not match the marking scheme.

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