Dozens of students and their parents contacted the Department of Education after being left flummoxed by an exceptionally hard Leaving Cert exam paper in Maths.

The examination caused controversy last month with some infuriated sixth years writing directly to Education Minister Norma Foley to say how “ridiculous” it was.

One wrote: “I studied my butt off in order to get a good grade in Maths so I can pursue my college goal and after that paper I feel that dream [has] been dumped, so thank you.”

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Another said they wanted to make a formal complaint, saying it had been particularly unjust for students who hadn’t been able to do their Junior Cert due to Covid-19.

A copy of their email said: “I feel as though the exam’s difficulty was deliberately increased from previous years.”

One parent told the Education Minister that the exam had been “frankly horrific”.

“My son is not one to be rattled but he is do deflated,” the parent said, “he is convinced he has failed miserably, along with literally every single one of his fellow classmates.”

The parent said the exam seemed like a “cruel joke”.

“When the vast majority of students walk out of an exam in tears, you know it is an issue with the exam, not the students,” they added.

Minister for Education Norma Foley at a press conference on the grading of Leaving Cert
Some infuriated sixth years wrote directly to Education Minister Norma Foley to say how “ridiculous” it was

Another parent said the paper had been “utterly unforgiving” and that they wanted to express their “disgust” about it.

They said: “I know this has caused mayhem especially for the stronger students, please ensure this examiner isn’t let loose again as I have two other kids working their way through the system.”

One email wrote of a parent and daughter left “devastated” by the exam and how the mental wellbeing of students needed to be considered.

“It is my first time to experience the Leaving Certificate as a parent and I am horrified at the stress and mental anguish experienced by students as a result of the convoluted way the [paper] was presented to students,” they wrote.

Another message said the paper had been “outrageous and cruel” particularly for a group of students who had not sat formal state exams before.

They wrote to Norma Foley saying: “Shame on you and the department for the stress you have caused hard working students so early in the exam schedule. Impossible for students not to be impacted for the remainder of the exams!”

One student said they wanted to express their “utter disappointment” saying the exam had been “a joke” and designed to catch people out.

Their email said: “I would wholeheartedly hope that [you] decide to take this matter very serious as passing maths is no joke for some of us students.”

Another parent explained how their two kids felt there was no point in continuing with their exams after being “extremely disheartened” by the paper.

“It is essential that the students be given fair grades and the marking scheme be altered severely to reflect the ridiculous nature of these questions,” said the email.

“AII the students and teachers we know were shocked at the level of difficulty of the maths paper.”

One email said the exam had likely destroyed any “love or affection” students involved would have for maths.

They wrote: “You have frightened the next generation of children into taking ordinary level maths rather than choosing higher level, which they are capable of.

“It is such a shame that this has happened. We talk about the importance of mental health and ensuring our children are supported during such a stressful time. You ignored this.”

Separately, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) refused to release details of any complaints they had received about the controversial paper.

They said commentary and correspondence was a normal part of the examinations process and would be brought to the attention of the Chief Examiner.

“The approach taken by the SEC to the development of the final marking schemes ensures consistency in the marking and fairness to candidates,” they said.