State secondary school exams begin with contention over a question on the Junior Certificate English paper.

Almost 116,000 secondary school students start the Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate examinations.

It's been a hugely challenging day for thousands of students.

So soon after the Navan bus crash in which five students lost their lives, a question on the Junior Cert Ordinary Level English paper has been criticised as highly insensitive.  The essay question related to the topic of 'travelling on the school bus".  The State Examinations Commission said that papers are set months in advance and it is not possible to exclude all questions relating to subjects or topics that students might find traumatic.

Eleanor Petrie, President of the National Parents Council described the inclusion of the question given the circumstances as "particularly insensitive".

Minister for Education Mary Hanafin TD expressed her hope that the question did not cause too much difficulty for students and said that she would be discussing the issue with the Independent Exams Commission responsible for overseeing all matters relating to the exams.

With the English papers now behind them, students are now preparing for their first papers in Irish and Maths.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 8 June 2005. The reporter is Emma O’Kelly.