Halloween school checks — exam and non-exam years

Leaving Certificate Year

By now most students have, hopefully, settled into a pattern of homework and study. And, if not, then Halloween is definitely the time for parent and student to sit down and discuss plans.

School study, if possible and affordable, is generally best for most students, for try as they might, students can find the distractions of home and phone just keeps putting study off.

Subject review is another issue that can be examined. Have you and your student talked of getting additional help in one or two subjects that may be causing difficulty for your student – but have not got around to it yet?

If so, then make that phone call and set a plan of support in action. So many parents and students let this intention to get help slide and slide, and then bitterly regret this indecision come January or, even more stressful, after the mocks.

Finally, CAO decisions and open days are filling students' and parents' minds. As ever, make sure that a student understands the full implications of all courses that he/she may be considering. And that means ideally going to the college open days, visiting the individual colleges' websites, and getting each college prospectus.

Students have a natural inclination to see only what they want to see when looking at a course. Sometimes it may be just the title of the course; sometimes the college itself may be the main attraction; very few students examine in detail each subject that they will be required to study and pass throughout each year of their course. At best they jump ahead to what they ‘can do’ in second year while ignoring, at their peril, the essential subjects of first year.

Once a student gets his/her Leaving Certificate subjects and study in order, choosing the right course, and college, is the most important decision to make this year. So do please give it time and attention, starting now.

Junior Certificate year

Again, with the Junior Certificate student, do consider supervised school study, but also be aware of any subject difficulties. These need immediate understanding and attention. Maths, science, and English are three vital subjects for a young student and will so influence Leaving Certificate subject and career choices ahead. Pay particular attention to these and to all subjects; if necessary, get help.

For the majority of subjects to be studied at honours level at Leaving Certificate a student will, ideally, need to have studied it at honours level in the Junior Certificate. It is also important to understand better the subject combinations best suited to individual careers and courses, and to pay particular attention to strengthening these through the Junior Certificate year. Again, start now, as many schools require Junior Certificate students choose their Leaving Certificate subjects from as early as January next year.

Pre-Leaving Certificate

All that was covered for the Leaving Certificate year could equally apply to all pre-Leaving Certificate years — with an added year to investigate possible courses and careers for the CAO 2018. But above all, homework and study needs to be in order, with care and additional help, if necessary, be given to a subject that may be causing difficulty or distress.

In extreme cases, some students may now realise that they have most definitely chosen a wrong subject to study for their Leaving Certificate. With a full discussion, and back up to support such a change, some schools may be able to facilitate a subject change at this stage. Halloween is, most definitely, depending on the student, not too late to do so. So now is a good time for all such reviews, with keen attention also given to upcoming Christmas examinations and, of course, the vital end of year examinations, come summer 2017.

First/second years

Most first year students are still very young and still need personal care and support with their homework and study throughout this important first term of second level, so home study is best. Try, each evening, to check over homework as it is done and concentrate, as ever, on the mastering of concepts, definitions, and new words, with attention given to how a young student is coping with mathematics. In extreme cases, get help, even now.

The same can be said of the second year student, where subjects increase in difficulty, requiring steady homework and revision, with additional help, if possible and necessary. But young students who are helped and encouraged to tackle their daily homework with clear revision to exams, will find that these two important years will bring a foundation and a confidence that will so blossom as they enter their important Junior Certificate year, in just a few years' time.

So, have a happy Halloween but avoid any future academic scares by reviewing and resetting goals and supports for all our students. They deserve it and so do you.

Marie Barrett is founder of MBCS, Marie Barrett Career Services, Loughrea, Co Galway. She is author of The Education Guide and contributes to national and local radio education programmes. MBCS works individually with second-level students and parents in student career, study, and education planning. Contact: 091-841424 / 086-2359751.


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