What to do if the Leaving Cert points don't add up

BEATRICE DOOLEY, President of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, has advice for students and parents left disappointed by Leaving Cert results
What to do if the Leaving Cert points don't add up
DECISION DAY: The waiting game is almost over for Leaving Cert students, and it's time to plan for the next stage of their education.  iStock

THE day that all sixth year students have worked toward has nearly arrived — one of the biggest days in their school life: Leaving Cert results day.

For some next Tuesday, August 13, will bring relief and joy, with celebrations and preparations for the next exciting stage. For others it will initially bring disappointment, anxiety and uncertainty.

That is until they talk to their guidance counsellor or the Freephone Exam Helpline, who will reassure them on alternative routes, so they can make informed decisions about the choices they face and future career paths.

University is not the only route to a good career. There are many attractive non-CAO options pathways after the Leaving Cert, such as Post-Leaving Cert (PLC) courses, apprenticeships and traineeships. These are rated as highly by Irish employers as are graduates from third-level colleges.

PLC/Further Education & Training

PLCs offer a mixture of practical work, academic work and work experience in areas such as business studies, childcare, community care, computing and technology, e-commerce, horticulture, multimedia production, sport & leisure and tourism. Start with www.fetchcourses.ie/ which is a useful link to research and apply for a variety of courses.

As application closing dates vary, applications are accepted until all places are filled.

Why a PLC course?

Full time, 1-2 year programmes; provides a major award at Level 5 or 6 qualification; serves as a back door into Higher Education Institutions; designed as a step towards skilled employment; suits students who, for financial/health/personal/visa requirement reasons, are not in a position to embark on a 3-4-year programme; ideal for any student who wants to try a short course as a trial before committing to a longer programme.


With a strong emphasis on practical skills and hands-on learning, those students whose preference is not the classroom will know what this means! Apprenticeships open up exciting, rewarding careers, where they can ‘earn while they learn’. A formal contract usually spans 2–4 years, with a minimum 50% on-the-job learning, coupled with being paid by your employer. Apprenticeships can lead to anything from Levels 5 to 10 in NVQ’s.

The main website is www.apprenticeship.ie with links to specific programmes in different sectors as there is not one central application system. Many, but not all, have deadlines for applications from March to May. Ensure you research your eligibility for each programme you may be interested in and understand how the application process works for each.

There are more than 40 apprenticeships in areas such as accounting, insurance, engineering, logistics, construction, electrical, engineering, ICT, hospitality, motor with as many more in development in areas ranging from agriculture and recruitment.

Websites Advertising Apprenticeship Vacancies


www.apprentices.ie/ (for construction jobs)



These combine learning in education settings with workplace settings and are delivered by Education & Training Boards (ETCs), in partnership with employers. They are in areas identified to have skills shortages, such as business, construction, finance and fashion and beauty. They are ideal for those not yet ready to commit to a course or job who would like to try something out for a short period of time. The employability of those completing these programmes is very high.

www.fetchcourses.ie provides details on programmes currently open for registration and information about both the entry requirements and the application process.

Why a Traineeship?

Lead to an award at Level 4-6 NVQ; between 6-20 months in duration; have at least 30% on-the-job learning; respond to identified skills need; combine transversal and technical skills development; designed for flexible delivery; improve employment outcomes.

Is Studying abroad popular? Why?

www.eunicas.ie/ is an independent application support service which, for €28, offers support and advice on the application process for up to eight programmes in Europe.

In Ireland, university registration fees can be expensive, but a number of European countries offer free university degrees through the English language, such as Germany, France and the Nordic countries. Deadlines for applying vary from country to country, and many programmes are still open for entry in 2019.

An added bonus is entry requirements are generally lower compared to equivalent courses in Ireland. This is not a reflection of quality — nine Dutch universities are higher-ranked than Trinity College, Dublin. They just DON’T DO POINTS and have availability within their third level system for prospective students. A large group of Dutch universities are returning to Ireland in October this year, with an event planned in Cork on October 21. Booking is free at www.eventbrite.ie/.

Why Study Abroad?

Entry requirements are either six passes at Leaving Cert (inc l. 2 x H4) or a relevant QQI Level 5; costs are low; student finance is available; they are actively looking for prospective students.

Are Irish UCAS applications down?

Yes. UCAS application deadlines were January 15, but in the autumn a second opportunity to apply occurs during Clearing. Research at www.ucas.com/ and be sure to first talk to your parents/guardians about the feasibility of funding this option. While the impact of Brexit is unclear, www.ucas.com/brexit provides information on tuition fees and student finance support for EU nationals.

Gap year / Volunteering

An excellent way for students to discover what they are good at and enjoy. Building up work experience, gaining transversal skills, independence and developing as a person are all valuable potential outcomes. The follow-on chance of gaining employment is high. If you can afford it, a gap year can be an opportunity to travel and volunteer. But this option needs careful research, as do the organisations/companies that offer programmes, as the quality and safety of each can vary. Don’t forget you can have the best of both worlds — the freedom and adventure of work/travel for a year and the security of a college place to come home to if you defer your CAO place.

Some useful websites:

www.careersportal.ie/ for information on learnerships, internships, bursaries;





The Value of Repeating Leaving Cert

This decision is not to be taken lightly; it requires reflection and professional advice, preferably from a qualified Guidance Counsellor. Any student should ask, what will I do differently to guarantee different results?

If you are repeating to maximise points, look at your choice of subjects and establish where you can gain. You can’t combine two Leaving Cert results for points purposes, but can use one exam result for minimum entry requirements. This means you can take up a new subject, if you think you could get a better grade in it, aside from sitting a required subject again. But you must be extremely motivated and dedicated to completing a two-year course in one year.

Advice for Students

For those who receive the results they hope for, there will be celebrations. For those disappointed, there will be feelings of fear about the future, we encourage the latter to make an appointment to see a guidance counsellor, who can help you in a private, non-judgemental setting and guide you through the process of focusing on developing a revised plan.

Advice for Parents

When the results are announced, be calm if your child is worried. Tell them you love them, no matter what their results, and listen to them. Create a distracting environmentwith activities to help them relax, while they settle down. Ensure you are there when they are ready to ask for help. If your child is displaying concerning behaviour that doesn’t diminish over time call the Exam Helpline.

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