Publications

National newspaper - reporting on state examinations: An historical exposition of the exceptional case of the Irish Leaving Certificate

O'Donoghue, T., Gleeson, J. and McCormack, O. (2017). National newspaper-reporting on state examinations: An historical exposition of the exceptional case of the Irish Leaving Certificate. Encounters in Theory and History of Education, 18, p.134.

During a post-independence phase (1922-mid-sixties), Irish secondary schooling was characterised by low participation rates, elitism, and careerist perceptions of students. Phase two (1967-mid 1980s) saw participation rates expand dramatically as Ireland became more open and industrialised, and policymakers focused on relationships between education,human capital and economic development. During this phase, the Irish Times began to include careers and examinations information. With school completion rates continuing to increase from the mid-1980s (phase three), the two main daily newspapers realised that th growing need for information about access to an increasingly complex and highly-prize higher education system, which was dependent on academic achievement, afforded an opportunity to boost sales and advertising. In response, examinations’ coverage reached a level recently described as ‘exceptional by a team of researchers from the Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment and Queen’s University Belfast.

Plastic people in pinstripe suits: an exploration of the views of Irish parents on the publication of school league tables 

O. McCormack, R. Lynch & J. Hennessy (2015) Plastic people in pinstripe suits: an exploration of the views of Irish parents on the publication of school league tables, Educational Studies, 41:5, 513-533, DOI: 10.1080/03055698.2015.1062080

While the publication of school league tables is prohibited by law in Ireland, the publication of data categorising university placements achieved per school has become common practice. A central argument advanced in this endeavour includes the provision of information for parents. The views of parents on this issue have, until now, not been explored in Ireland. The current paper outlines the findings of a national survey of 1915 parents on the publication of school league tables. The findings of this research highlight a widespread rejection of the practice. Concerns surrounding the narrowing of educational experience, the intensification of performance pressures and the rise of elitism in schools were noted. Calls for greater teacher accountability were also noted and deemed to transcend the publication of school league tables.