Bank Holiday Mondays: normally a day when we commemorate all that the Banks have done for the country, by staying out of work.  The June Bank Holiday is different. Its origins go back much further than that.  In pre-Christian Times, the first weekend in June was marked by the huge pagan feast of Divestianalia. It was in celebration the moment when Mammies said the weather was warm enough to go without a vest.

The festival itself was notable for debauchery and licentious behaviour as  the inhabitants of entire villages would gather together and cast off their vests and go around with a just T-shirt and short trousers.

With climate change this behaviour has died down somewhat. There are seven year olds in Ireland today who have never seen a warm June in their lives.

Today also represents the toughest day of the State examinations buildup. While the rest of the family is ostentatiously doing nothing with all day to do it in, spare a thought for the Leaving Certs students.

Actually you don’t need to spare a thought at all. You can’t avoid talk of the Leaving Cert.

Opinion-writers argue in the media over its value – Does it prepare you for real life? Of course it does! You can study Japanese through Irish – an invaluable combination.

Then there are pages and pages of exam supplements in the newspapers. Although these special pull-outs are well-meaning, they need to approached with care.  Even the ‘exam tips’ section designed to help students make the most of their time can have the opposite effect as panicked students realise their own strategy is all wrong. “FLASH CARDS! WHERE AM I GOING TO GET FLASH CARDS AT THIS HOUR?!

Experts also advise against last minute cramming. This is good advice from a study point of view but not good preparation for what happens afterwards.  You will find that in real life most of the really good stuff is done at the last minute. This is because the last minute is the moment when everyone accepts that there isn’t time for any more meetings or implementation strategies and they need to actually do something.

An exam supplement may also contain accounts by celebrities recounting their exam days including some very successful people have never even done the Leaving Cert. Parents should consider censoring these bits. It’s all very well for a comfortably-tanned wealthy man in his 50s to talk about how not having the Leaving Cert “didn’t do him a bit of harm”. It was different back then. No one had the Leaving. Now with education inflation, you need more and more qualifications in order to keep pace with the rest of the workforce. In 2113 there’ll be an exam supplement with a 120 year-old saying “An MBA isn’t the be all and end all. Shur when I went out working, I barely had me pHD.”

The only tip that will never date is to keep an eye on the weather forecast during the exams – just in case you need a vest.

This article was first published in the Irish Examiner on June 6th, 2013

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