Monday, July 22, 2024

School’s Out! The class of 2024 reflect as school days draw to a close

By Lorraine Murphy and Ciaran Brennan

School’s finally out for the class of 2024. After six years of homework, hard work and a pandemic, they can now face into a well-earned summer break and a future full of opportunities.

It was uncharted territory for this year’s bunch who were sitting their first state exams. They received predictive grades in lieu of Junior Cycle exams. Topic caught up with students from St Finian’s and Coláiste Mhuire to find out about how they went, and what their school experience was like.

“I think the exams went very well,” said Coláiste Mhuire student, Ben Murphy (19).

“There were no real shocks. I was a bit nervous about accounting but I was able to attempt all of it and luckily the stuff I did came up.”

Ben got through the Leaving Cert along with Niall Bardon (19) and Seán Darcy (18) who he has been friends with since first year. The trio said they were happy with how the exams went and were relieved to have finished. On the other side of Mullingar, St Finian’s student Róisín Granahan (19) felt happy with how the Leaving Cert went.

“It went as well as it could. Obviously, there were some good ones and some bad ones. Overall, I’m really happy with how I handled it,” said Róisín.

The Castlepollard woman said it was “so unpredictable” and added that she didn’t know what she was in for. Éabha Wallace (18) from St Finian’s said she wasn’t phased by the exams and felt the entire thing had been oversold to her. The Ballinderry woman said “everyone was a bit tetchy” on the first day but they had gotten to grips with it by the final exam.

“Coming up to it, you hear all these news articles and RTÉ are going on talking about it. When you are actually there in the room, you’re with the same people you’ve been with for six years. It’s just a different examiner and you’re just sitting in an exam,” said Éabha.
Transitioning to life after the Big One is tough. Some drill sergeants aren’t as disciplined as a Leaving Cert student hell bent on achieving maximum points. Change from such a regimental schedule will be difficult.

“My answer to everything for the past six months has been ‘I’m going to the library’. Now where am I going?” said Éabha.

Future plans

Seán Darcy hopes to study commerce in either NUIG or UCD but is also keeping his options open to pursuing sports management. Ben wants to study quantity surveying in Technological University Dublin and said “I think I’ll have enough points based on how I feel all the exams have gone”. Niall Bardon is aiming to pursue a degree in accounting and business in Maynooth University.

Róisín is hoping to go to NUIG or Limerick to study construction. Design and communication graphics was her favourite subject in school and construction seems to be in the blood. One of her uncles is a quantity surveyor and another works in demolition. Éabha is “a bit on the fence” about what to put down on her CAO. Now that the leaving cert is out of the way, she will “rethink it properly” ahead of the 1 July deadline. She is hoping to study psychology in Dublin.

Advice

Leaving Cert advice is always a touchy subject with fifth years clutching onto freedom but words of wisdom are better realised before learning the hard way. For Ben, a calm mind and a steady hand are your two greatest tools for the Big One.

“Try to stay consistent, don’t overdo it or underdo it because you’ll either burn out or leave it too late. You should have the work done long before the exams start. Also, it sounds simple, but if there are questions guaranteed to come up, make sure they’re the ones you learn first,” he said.

Seán agreed with Ben and said looking after your body and getting the fluids in is the best way to get the brain pumping: “Keep it steady and don’t sacrifice your sleep for the sake of revising more because you won’t remember anything after four or five hours of sleep. Drink lots of water too and stay hydrated.”

A nice controlled pace will get you to the finish line with your wits intact. It’s also important to get out and about. Coops are for chickens and Niall doesn’t recommend chaining yourself to the desk and flogging the exam papers until your hand is cramping once the exams roll in.
“The majority of the work is done in the classroom. Getting out and seeing people is very important too,” he said.

Memories

Along with the end of the Leaving Cert, it’s the end of the students’ secondary school journey. The trio recalled some of their best days along the way from choral performances, to hurling in sumo suits. Ben, who attended St Colman’s NS said his stand out memory of the last six years was “the time I went hurling training in a sumo suit after a fancy dress day in school. It was very hot but I got through it”.

Niall’s favourite memory from his time in Coláiste Mhuire was the school trip to Delphi in Mayo during TY. We are informed no sumo suits were involved on this occasion. An avid rugby player, Séan has great memories of his time in school.

“I played with the rugby team and in the McMullen cup final against Donnybrook which was big for a school that isn’t known for rugby. Our year oversaw the development of rugby in the school and hopefully we’ve started a whole new sport that they can excel in.”

Róisín and Éabha had numerous highlights during their time at St Finian’s. Transition Year was a high point for the pair who said it was a chance for them to get to know their classmates better. For Éabha, she will remember all the simple moments that will become cherished memories in years to come.

“The classes all had their unique moments that we found funny. Even the teachers, you always got on with your teachers,” she said.

One of their favourite days out during their time at St Finian’s was with the choir when they sang in the Maynooth chapel. Róisín and Éabha were part of a contingent that sang the works of St Finian’s alumni who were also in attendance.

Covid

The class of 2024’s secondary school experience was disrupted by the pandemic. It saw students pivot to online learning and changed the communication dynamic between teachers and students. St Finian’s didn’t miss a beat as the world shuddered to a halt.

“Our school handled it so well. When we went to online learning, the teacher’s went above and beyond to have all the resources online. I thought it was great to get more resources online,” said Róisín.

A big concern for many sitting this year’s Leaving Cert was the fact they had no experience of sitting state exams before. They got the chance to tog out for the mocks but the pressure of the Big One still loomed as D-Day arrived. Thankfully, they all managed it well and feel confident that Covid didn’t decide their exams.

“The second you got into the exam, the stress just went away. Missing Junior Cert didn’t make much of a difference, we’ve been doing exams for many years now, this was no different. The mocks set us up for them,” said Niall.

Seán said Covid knocked them “out of practice” and when they entered fifth year it was a big change for them. He said once the first exam was out of the way, it settled the nerves having never sat state exams before. The mullingar man said “the school couldn’t have done much more”.

Moving on

As life after secondary school beckons, the group won’t have time to dwell on the past too much. First they must finalise their CAO, anxiously await results and then choose their next step. The school corridors have seen the last of the class of 2024 and adulthood awaits.

For now, the uniforms will be relegated to the bottom of the wardrobe where they will be rediscovered years down the line. There is so much to look forward to, but Róisín and Éabha had a moment to spare for what they are leaving behind.

“I’ll miss waking up and then going to go see my friends,” said Róisín.

“I’ll miss how much the teachers cared. The teachers really cared,” said Éabha.

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