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Key things to consider when choosing Leaving Cert subjects

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By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

At this time of the year students in Third and Transition Year are being asked to choose the subjects they wish to study in senior cycle.

It can be a stressful time for students and parents who are concerned that choices made at this stage could have an impact on course and career choices after the Leaving Cert. My first piece of advice to parents is to make sure you attend the information meeting about senior cycle options in the school as you will get detailed information about the different subjects available, as well as guidance on entry requirements for the various pathways. Typically students studying the traditional Leaving Cert take three compulsory subjects; Maths, English and Irish (unless they have an exemption), and four optional subjects from the list on offer in the school. It can be difficult for students at 15 or 16 to know what career direction they would like to take after school, that’s very normal. Some may have an idea about a broad area of interest like science, business, health, engineering etc, while many have no idea at all. There are a few things that might help with making decisions about subject choice.

What to consider when choosing optional subjects

First think about the subjects you like and what you are good at as you will work hard on them and have a good chance of getting good grades. They are also likely to influence the choices you make later regarding college courses and other education and training options. Consider also subjects you really don’t like and struggle with, this is the chance to leave them behind. What you need to watch out for are the minimum entry requirements for various Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) as you will need to meet them in order to be considered for entry to college and universities when you apply through the Central Applications Office (CAO). Check what the requirement is around having a third language. You can check them out in the undergraduate section of college websites and on specific course pages. There is also a very useful subject requirement module on www.qualifax.ie which allows you to check what courses require particular subjects such as chemistry or another laboratory science. There is an excellent course finder facility on www.careersportal.ie where you can do a general search and use the filter to narrow it down to particular subject areas, locations and requirements. They also have a guide to the Leaving Cert subjects where you can explore the content of the subjects at senior cycle.

If you really don’t have an idea of what you want to do after school then choose a broad range of subjects so you keep as many options open as you can. Consider taking one option from the following; a language, a science, a business subject, and a practical or humanities based subject. Talking to your guidance counsellor in school is a huge help as he/she will be able to explore your interests, strengths, aptitudes and past performance in subjects with you as well as answer any questions you have about requirements for courses and colleges. It can also be really helpful to talk to subject teachers. Make sure to look closely at what is involved in the subjects you are choosing and that you have a genuine interest in taking it up or continuing with it in senior cycle.

Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Career Consultant. For details see www.mycareerplan.ie.

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The same but different – A tribute to three great Irish musicians

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Driving home from work last Friday, tributes for Shane McGowan were pouring out across the radio stations and while listening in, I got a strong sense of déjà vu.

It was only a few months earlier that we got the sad news that the talented Aslan front man Christy Dingham had passed away, and a short few weeks after that – Sinéad O’Connor.  The loss of three iconic Irish musicians that left music fans across the country reeling.

When I think about each artist individually, their personalities couldn’t be more different. Yet, for days after the passing of the Pogues frontman, I found myself wondering why I was so drawn to all three.

And then, over the weekend I stumbled across a completely unrelated article which led with a headline:

“In a year dominated by artificial intelligence, deepfakes, and disingenuity, “authentic” has somehow emerged as Merriam-Webster’s word for 2023.”

And there was my answer. The one characteristic that embodied all three of these great Irish musicians.

It was my mother that first introduced me to Aslan’s music. She grew up during their peak and loved all sorts of rock music. I regularly watch their Vicar Street performances back on YouTube and still get mesmerised by Christy’s intense stage presence. Using elaborate hand gestures to evoke a greater meaning behind the words, he always looked like he was away in his own world. Off stage, and particularly later in his career, I admired him for his honesty when talking about his struggles with addiction and mental health. He was talking openly about these issues long before it was the norm.

Sinéad O’Connor was another original soul who, because of her talent, was catapulted into a music industry consumed by artificiality; she was almost too pure for it all. I always admired her unwavering commitment to her beliefs. Her authenticity was evident in every aspect of her artistry. The way she unapologetically embraced her shaved head and boy-ish style, she challenged conventional opinions around beauty. Her music reflected her personal struggles and she never shied away from addressing issues of social injustice, religion, and gender equality. Her stances often drew criticism and controversy, but she always remained true to herself.

Shane MacGowan will always be remembered for his unfiltered nature, and while the lyrics of many songs were dark and gritty, there was also an element of empathy and compassion in what he wrote. Like Christy, he too struggled with addiction and mental health issues throughout his career. While his demons sometimes spilled over into the public eye, his honesty and vulnerability just endeared him even more to us Irish.

So isn’t it apt in a year we lost three great musicians, the word of 2023 happens to be the one undeniable trait that they all shared. Thank you Christy, Sinead and Shane for showing us that authenticity is not just about being different to everyone else; but also about possessing the courage to challenge the established, to question the norms, and to keep going, even when the going gets tough.

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Full employment, minimum wage set to rise, but locals still feeling the pinch!

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Warning: This article does not come with the usual bells, whistles and Christmas cheer you would expect at this time of the year.

Last week we asked our readers to take part in our Killarney Town Pulse Survey. We wanted to get a better understanding of local consumer sentiment and to get an snapshot of other issues impacting our standard of living. See a summary of our findings below.

Analysis

So, jobs are aplenty, the minimum wage is set to increase in 2024 and yet according to our findings, locals are not too optimistic about the year ahead.

Just 1 in 10 people reported that they are better off now than they were a year ago. Only 16% expect the economy to be in a better place this time next year and there seems to be widespread dissatisfaction with how the government are tackling key issues affecting our standard of living.

Hasn’t everything gone so expensive?

If I got a euro for every time I heard this the over the past 12 months I certainly wouldn’t be feeling the pinch myself! Generally speaking, people do not like to talk about their personal finances but people’s behaviour is changing under the current climate. We are so frustrated with the cost of everything we are venting at home, in the office, and even while out for dinner with friends. It is not a dig at local business, I know plenty of small businesses struggling to keep their heads above water too.

Inflation is a concern but the real worry is where prices will land

Consumers and businesses are dealing with higher interest rates that have come as a result of the Central Bank trying to tame inflation. Loan products such as mortgages and car loans are more expensive. The noise coming from these issues alone is enough to drown out any positive aspects of the economy.

Stubbornly high inflation is a concern for policy makers, but for the average Joe, we are more concerned about where prices will eventually fall back to. We can deal with some short term pain but with inflation stabilising and some early signs it may even be falling, a large percentage of our survey respondents expect prices to continue to rise. This is backed up by many economists predicting prices will never return to what they were.

It’s not clear how much wage increases have played into higher prices up to now but there is a general consensus that where business margins are tight, higher wages for workers will lead to sustained higher prices for consumers 

Government is failing on issues impacting our standard of living

Research published by the National Youth Council of Ireland last week showed that more than 7 in 10 young people aged 18-24 are considering moving abroad because they think they would enjoy a better quality of life elsewhere. We asked a similar question to locals in our survey and more than 50% of Killarney locals said that either they, or someone they know, is considering moving abroad. This is a sad indictment of our country today.

The pace of housing delivery is dampening young people’s hopes of owning their own home and is even making renting unaffordable. It is not just impacting the youth however, I know of business owners in Killarney where housing shortages are impacting their ability to attract and retain talent, Businesses can’t afford to pay them a wage that allows them to comfortably rent and live in Killarney.  

At the start of September we were reading about a major teacher shortage across the country. Graduate múinteoirí are now ditching Ireland for the Middle-East where their accommodation is often subsidised and their take-home-pay benefits from a largely tax-free society. 

This Wednesday we witnessed a staff walk out at UHK in protest of a recruitment ban in place by the HSE. Reports claim that there are over 90 clerical positions waiting to be filled at the hospital. It is no wonder with all of these added pressures that our nurses and doctors are heading Down Under for warmer weather and better pay and while you couldn’t begrudge them, the drain of health workers in Ireland is leaving those left behind working in stressful and sometimes dangerous conditions.  

It’s the uncertainty

The economy is in a strange place at the moment, we are not sure if it is growing, slowing or shrinking. It kind of feels like we are dangling off the edge of a cliff and one big gust of wind could  push us over the edge. The preferred outcome is that we will be pulled back to safer ground but can this government gets to grips with the major issues impacting our standard of living and get the cost of living down to a more tolerable level?

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