More than 50,000 students are sitting this year's Leaving Certificate examinations, which began this morning.

For the first time candidates begin the exams with a new mix of subjects designed to reduce the writing burden of the first few days.

In all, 89 subjects will be examined in 4,500 centres across the country.

For years students have railed against the concentration of core subjects English, Maths and Irish in the first few days of the Leaving Cert exam.

An unnecessary burden, they argued, and this year their pleas have been answered, to an extent. For the first time these papers are slightly more spread out. Instead of two English papers there is just one.

Between the traditional Leaving Cert and the Leaving Cert Applied a total of 57,000 students have registered.

The same number again are sitting the Junior Certificate exams.

Teachers' unions and new Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe have sent best wishes.