Sarah Hehir, Scariff Community College, Co Clare

“In the last two years, the numbers taking ag science have dropped. We’ve gone from having full classes every year, say 24 in a class, down to 17 or 18. You wouldn’t have two classes or three classes of ag science any more.

“It’s a farming area so you’d imagine there’d be a better take-up.

“The one thing about the [individual investigative study] now is that the students don’t have the same interest because it’s not a farm plan – they have to go off and do a scientific investigation and for those who don’t have the scientific mind it’s very hard.

“The lack of interview is definitely a con, especially for those who have a genuine interest in farming. In the interview you got to see what they actually know and they mightn’t always be able to put that down on paper.”

Marcella Crowe, St Joseph’s College, Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary

“The problem is with the project and the fact that they’re at a computer and they’re trying to use a system that’s all new to them, like Excel. I’m teaching them computers rather than trying to teach ag science. OK, it’s all very useful to them but it shouldn’t really be my job.

“I think if they want to make it practical, get the students into an exam hall and get them to write a case study on a farm that they have studied – in this way everybody is able to write about a farm under different headings each year. At least they’re writing about something that’s real and that they understand as opposed to getting someone down the road to have typed and done the project for them.

“The new project is just too open to other people doing it for them, it’s created an uneven playing field and it’s too open to plagiarism. The old way where students could be called out for an interview on their project was far better.”

Marriane Gardiner, Gort Community School, Co Galway

“The first year of the new project, to be honest, was painful because it was such a change from the old one. We had to learn as teachers as well what was required.

“Now we’ve got on top of it and we know what is required and we can help our students a little bit better.

“They’re learning some important skills that they need to learn for going onto third level anyway - computer skills, researching, referencing.

“I do think though this year the teachers have a hard enough job to make sure what’s done in terms of the project is the students’ own work.

“Of course you’ve Chat GPT now which is good and we should embrace it but it make it harder for us to know.

“It is a pity that the interview is gone. I think it was a great thing with the old projects that you could have an ag science teacher come in and within a minute you know if that project is genuine or not and it was a great safety net.”

Miriam O’Gorman, Scoil Chríost Rí, Portlaoise, Co Laois

“Demand among students for ag science at the minute isn’t great. I’ve been there 10 years and we’ve always had a class and there’s been two years now where we haven’t had a class. We’ve no fifth year group this year; I have a sixth year group but there’s only 10 in it.

“I do think the new course has brought down the numbers, I think they’re seeing the project as more difficult than what they saw the old project to be.

“With the old ag science the interview was great, I used to go correct them as well and I’d go to different schools and do the monitoring of them.

“You really would see how much interest they have for farming but with the new individual investigative study they’re not able to show it as much.

“Students are also looking at the new biology, physics and chemistry courses where they’re looking at projects being worth 40% as opposed to 25% for ag science.

“They all pick biology any- way, but if they see that they can get 40% for doing a very similar project it might put them off ag science.”