Examinations & Assessment
Assessment plays a key role in monitoring pupil performance and ensuring they reach their potential. Assessment is both formal (termly examinations and effort mark) and informal.
Examinations are held three times a year in all Forms (except not in the summer term for Transition Year). Invaluable practice is gained by having to perform under examination conditions. Not only that, the process of organising oneself and revising independently is a discipline that stands to the pupil as time goes on. All teachers provide guidance, supervision and feedback.
The ‘mock’ examinations for those doing the public examinations (Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate) are held in the Hilary Term (February/March).
Assessment takes place continually throughout the term with marks for effort being recorded on average every three weeks. Subject teachers grade and comment on homework as it is handed in and promptly returned. At the end of each term there is a full hand-written report on each pupil, in each subject. This gives a detailed account of the pupil’s effort and standard at that time, with a grade given as a percentage. The report also gives advice on areas of weaknesses and comments positively on good performances. Included in the report are the marks for effort awarded over the term. In this way it is hoped that parents can gain accurate feedback on a pupil’s progress. The report is reviewed by House staff and signed off by the Warden.
Parent-teacher meetings are held three times a year. These meetings are designed to give the opportunity for face to face meetings between parents and members of staff and allow for discussion on a pupil’s standard and progress.
Academic Results & Progression
Academic results in state examinations in the College are outstanding by any reliable indicator or measure. We publish all of our results annually and believe that these are among the very best in the country. This year our pupils achieved an average points score of 483, with two pupils achieving the maximum 625 points on offer. In all, 9% of our candidates scored over 600 points, 32% over 500 points, 65% over 400 points and 91% over 300 points.
Since a new grading system was introduced in 2017 it is difficult to compare with previous years. Under the more familiar older (A1, A2, B1) etc system, the class of 2016 scored a record average points score in their Leaving Certificate of 473, equivalent to just under five grade As per candidate. 44% of all candidates achieved 500+ points, with 77% achieving 400+ points and 95% achieving 300+ points.
In the past six years Columbans have scored an average of 460 CAO points, an astonishing figure and surely amongst the best, if not the best, in Ireland.
The vast majority of our pupils progress to third level, in Ireland, the UK, the US and, increasingly so, to universities in the Netherlands and Germany.
The College is consistently and massively under-represented by so-called ‘League’ tables in Irish newspapers. These are not official, and the data does not come from the Department of Education. They tend to be solely based on data from third-level institutions in the Republic of Ireland (and some in Northern Ireland) about the origins of their students.
Crucially, the majority of pupils leaving St Columba’s College are not represented at all in these statistics, since so many go on to universities outside the state (particularly the United Kingdom, Holland and Germany, as well as distinguished institutions in the United States and elsewhere). This data never reaches the Irish media.
As an example, in 2017 the College was the lowest-rated fee-paying school in the Sunday Times’s “Definitive Guide to Ireland’s Top 400 Schools”, actually placing outside the 400. This was despite achieving the very high average points score of 474 in the examinations that year – higher than several schools at the top of the table claim for themselves on their websites, since increasing numbers of our pupils are choosing to study at European universities.
It should also be noted that the ‘Sunday Times’ table massively understates our pupil-teacher ratio, since the only data available to the media refer to state-paid teachers, a minority compared to privately-paid teachers at the College.