The Principal of Ballymakenny College, Alan Mynes. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson.
History is being made in Drogheda today (Wednesday) as it is the first time students of Ballymakenny College will get to physically sit a Leaving Certificate exam.
The school opened to first years in 2014 and those students were due to sit their Leaving Cert in June last year before COVID-19 arrived. The Department then decided to use predicted grades.
Principal Alan Mynes speaking yesterday (Tuesday) said, “its great that we can hold the examinations at all. A few months ago it looked like the Leaving Cert was in jeopardy.”
“It think we have a lot to be optimistic about and the holding of the Leaving Certificate is a reflection of that positivity. Ultimately it means that the students who have worked over the last two years as part of the senior cycle will get an opportunity to display their knowledge. It’s a very important time for all students in that sense.”
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“This group of students will be the first group in our school to sit the examinations and that is very exciting for everyone, including the staff. I am excited for them as principal.”
He said the students had “embraced the return to school with enthusiasm. We had very little disruption up to Christmas break and that gave everyone the opportunity to catch up on work missed last year.”
“The revision of the format of the exams themselves helped these students see that the workload was manageable and that a strategic approach to exam selection was going to be very important. I am delighted that many of our students are opting to sit their examinations. This shows that they are ready for this test.”
He also said the return to school at the end of February was a very valuable time for them and the vast majority used the time well.
For the staff at the school with students sitting State exams it has been more difficult than other years.
He said, “online learning is a poor substitute for the classroom. The ideal is to have that personal contact with students. The changes to the papers, the absence of mock examination and the addition of the accredited grades system certainly put a little more pressure on all those involved but again I think they responded so well to all of those challenges.”
The main challenges and pressures since March 2020, have been around opening and maintaining a safe environment for all of the school community and every element of school life was impacted in the last year.
He said, “collaboration is a central part of our ethos so that has been much more difficult to manage this year. Ultimately we were able to do that in a safe manner which was a great tribute to everyone involved. Thanks to the parents for their support!”
His final words of advice to students this morning is “keep calm and do your level best in these examinations. Everything has a way of coming together on the day. Just give it your best shot!”
He said to take on board the advice from their teachers and pace themselves over the month. “It’s hectic at the start but all of the work will pay off.”
Life after school is, “when the real fun starts and life is just starting for this group of young people!”
Ballymakenny College opened it’s doors in 2014 with 7 staff and 63 students. It now has 921 students and around 90 staff and, Mr Mynes said, “we expect to grow again this year. We will soon reach 1000 students in total. That’s phenomenal growth.”
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