The Leaving


The sun’s out and that can only mean one thing. The Leaving is upon us. So whether you have a 6th year in the house at the moment, have had one recently or sat it yourself any time since the Irish Times stopped publishing results, you’re probably feeling a bit rantish about it, too.

It’s evolved into a crazy thing. All that memorizing- the Brazilian and Luxembourgeois GDPs, reproductive systems, Shakespeare essays, land formations, pen pal letters to Diarmuid and Sile. And all that analysis- but not of actual subject material so much as what’s likely to come up on this year’s papers. It seems every Sixth Year’s a statistician or a bookie in the making. And just in case you’re wondering, smart money’s apparently on Plath and Bishop in Honours English and an essay on cultural vs physical boundaries likely in Geography.

It’s bad enough that we have an all-your-eggs-in-one basket system that doesn’t allow for an off-day or even an off-question if you’re going for ultra high points. Is it fair that you could stumble on your Macbeth and that that five points could keep you out of Med School? (And yes, that does still happen even post-HPAT.) Just try living with the irony of something as minor as a sore throat making you miss becoming a doctor when you’ve studied your ass off morning, noon and night for two years.

But then there are all the littler things, too. The way teachers favour so-called ‘psychological grading’ that’s designed to “keep you on your toes” during Sixth Year (has no one told them students have an innate calculus for detecting their manoeuvres?).  The way adults (especially aunts and uncles) ask you constantly how it’s going even if it’s only been a week since they last saw you. The way everyone gathers before every exam to compare study notes and freaks each other out with conflicting strategies. The way you get permanent calluses on your fingers from writing so much, so hard, in ballpoint. The way some girl always cries at the end of every exam and causes mass hysteria. The way some schools make kids wear their uniform until the bitter end (it’s bad enough being sealed into an airless room without sweaty, fear-soaked synthetic ‘wool’ in the mix). The way schools cling to the ridiculous notion that Fifth Year bathroom monitors are going to prevent cheating (can anyone produce evidence of a bust, like ever?). The way the perfect weather breaks just as the last pen is laid down in Classics (and doesn’t come back until September). The way it takes so long to find out how you did.

And from a parental point of view, the way it’s a year-long, chore-free ride for Junior unless you’ve got kryptonite-proof powers of persuasion and stamina. And more importantly, the way your children’s study habits or lack thereof get so deep under your skin, you turn into somebody you never wanted to be. Kids who study too much are terrifying because they’ve invested so much in something they and you can’t control so you go a bit mad while kids who study too little turn you into Kilkenny Woman, bless her.

Maybe boys have it right. Chances are, they think they’ve done better than they did until the minute they get their results. Then they think they’ve screwed up if they get five points more than they needed for what they wanted because they’ve wasted valuable messing time.  Until the whole current system’s scrapped or at least re-worked, perhaps everyone should take a leaf or two from their book.


Laura George @lgeorge353 sees the light at the end of the tunnel- the last nestling’s Leaving is officially underway.

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