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Ireland:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

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Overview Ireland

Contents

Ireland:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Ireland:Historical Development

Ireland:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

Ireland:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

Ireland:Political and Economic Situation

Ireland:Organisation and Governance

Ireland:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Ireland:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Ireland:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Ireland:Organisation of Private Education

Ireland:National Qualifications Framework

Ireland:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Ireland:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Ireland:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Ireland:Funding in Education

Ireland:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Ireland:Higher Education Funding

Ireland:Adult Education and Training Funding

Ireland:Early Childhood Education and Care

Ireland:Organisation of Early Childhood Education and Care

Ireland:Teaching and Learning in Early Childhood Education and Care

Ireland:Assessment in Early Childhood Education and Care

Ireland:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Ireland:Primary Education

Ireland:Organisation of Primary Education

Ireland:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

Ireland:Assessment in Primary Education

Ireland:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

Ireland:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Ireland:Organisation of Lower Secondary Education

Ireland:Teaching and Learning in Lower Secondary Education

Ireland:Assessment in Lower Secondary Education

Ireland:Organisation of Upper Secondary Education

Ireland:Teaching and Learning in Upper Secondary Education

Ireland:Assessment in Upper Secondary Education

Ireland:Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Ireland:Higher Education

Ireland:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Ireland:First Cycle Programmes

Ireland:Bachelor

Ireland:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Ireland:Second Cycle Programmes

Ireland:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Ireland:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Ireland:Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Distribution of Responsibilities

Ireland:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Ireland:Main Providers

Ireland:Main Types of Provision

Ireland:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Ireland:Teachers and Education Staff

Ireland:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Ireland:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Ireland:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Ireland:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Management and Other Education Staff

Ireland:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Staff Involved in Monitoring Education Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Ireland:Management Staff for Higher Education

Ireland:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Ireland:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Quality Assurance

Ireland:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Ireland:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Educational Support and Guidance

Ireland:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Ireland:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Ireland:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Ireland:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Ireland:Mobility and Internationalisation

Ireland:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Mobility in Higher Education

Ireland:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Ireland:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Ireland:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Ireland:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Ireland:National Reforms in School Education

Ireland:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Ireland:National Reforms in Higher Education

Ireland:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Ireland:European Perspective

Ireland:Legislation

Ireland:Glossary

Chapter 6 Second Level Education

The Education Act, 1998 describes schools at the first-level of education in Ireland as primary schools and schools at the second-level as post-primary schools. Of the 735 post-primary schools in 2015/16, 375 of them are voluntary secondary schools, 95 are community or comprehensive schools, 265 are vocational schools. All post-primary schools, in Ireland, provide a unified curriculum and the teachers employed by them have similar academic qualifications.

The terminology 'lower secondary' and 'upper secondary' is not used in Ireland. The first three years of post-primary education (generally catering for young people aged 12-15 years) is called ‘junior cycle', and 'senior cycle' describes the two or three years in school after the junior cycle (generally catering for young people aged 15-18 years). In general terms, the Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act, 1924, provided the legislative basis for the operation of the traditional secondary school system. The Vocational Education Act, 1930, provided for technical and continuation education, establishing a network of regionally based Vocational Education Committees and Vocational Schools. The Education Act, 1998, created a comprehensive legislative framework for all schools.

The roots of most of the present post-primary education available in Ireland stem from the nineteenth century. Until 1967, when free post-primary education was introduced, religious orders and other denominational bodies were the main providers of post-primary education (on a fee paying basis), together with vocational schools which provided free vocationally oriented education.

Historically, the voluntary secondary schools that were privately owned by denominational bodies offered a traditional academic curriculum leading to higher education and general public service employment. The vocational schools offered a practical or technical curriculum of two years duration under local public authority control leading to apprenticeship or to the general labour force. Traditionally, voluntary secondary schools enjoyed greater status and tended to attract more middle class students.


Following the OECD Investment in Education Report, 1966, the government moved to alter this dual system of schooling. From 1967, vocational schools were permitted to enter students for the same public examinations as the voluntary secondary schools, and entry to voluntary secondary schools was to be free of charge, as had been the case with vocational schools. 


In the 1970s, comprehensive and community schools were established in a number of areas where post-primary schools were not easily accessible, offering a wide range of academic and vocational subjects. In addition, these schools were charged with forging local community links through the provision of adult education. Thus, post-primary education in Ireland today means education for children from age 12 approximately, offered in three main types of school: voluntary secondary schools, vocational schools, comprehensive/community schools. Nowadays, while these types of school differ marginally in their management structures (in terms of the interests represented on the school boards), they all offer a mix of academic and vocational subjects, leading to the same national examinations, and to progression to higher education. All second level schools have a board of management representing management/Patron, teacher, parent and community interests. However, vocational schools, while having a school board of management, operate under the aegis of their regional vocational education committee.  From the 1980s onwards, with the availability of European Social Funds, the provision of post school vocational education and training in the education sector expanded rapidly, mainly through the work of the vocational education committees. Side by side with this, a vocational training sector under the control of the Minister for Jobs Enterprise and Innovation began to evolve from 1967 onwards. In 2010, responsibility for this VET activity, operated under FAS, the Industrial Training Authority, was transferred to the Minister for Education and Skills.  All education and vocational training is now delivered under a single Ministry.


In 2013, the Education and Training Boards Act abolished Vocational Education Committees (VECs), and established Education and Training Boards (ETBs) in their place. The 33 VECs have been replaced by 16 ETBs.  Each ETB is responsible for co-ordinating vocational training in its area (this has evolved into a Further Education and Training (FET) sector described in Chapter 8). The ETBs assumed responsibility for

(a) all the vocational schools in their areas (offering second level education and FET)
(b) Further Education and Training generally, including all the training activity hitherto provided by FAS, which was abolished.


Solas (the Further Education Authority) was established under the Further Education and Training Act 2013 with responsibility for policy, co-ordination and funding of further education and training provision, working in collaboration with the ETBs.


The work of the Further Education Sector is described under Chapter 8 Adult Education, although it includes some provision under the Youthreach programme offering second chance education and training for early school leavers. This Chapter deals with post primary education only – lower and upper secondary education, or the Junior and Senior cycles, as they are called in Ireland


Regional Structures
The 265 vocational schools, which cater for cater for about 27% of second level enrolment, operate under the aegis of 16 regional Education and Training Boards. There is no intermediate administrative tier for the remaining secondary and community and comprehensive schools (470 schools catering for 73% of enrolment).


Diversity
Since the mid-1990s, the populations of many post-primary schools have become increasingly diverse. This reflects both the increasing ethnic diversity of Irish society as a whole and the trend towards integration of young people with special educational needs in mainstream schools both internationally and in Ireland. Department of Education and Skills policy supports mainstreaming, including the inclusion of newcomer students, students from minority groups and students with special educational needs. This policy is underpinned by the Education Act, 1998, the Equal Status Act, 2000 and the Education of Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004.  This legislation has placed new responsibilities on schools and teachers to access appropriate supports, resources and expertise to meet the needs of students.


Vocational Schools and Community and Comprehensive schools are intended to cater for students of all religions or none. Secondary schools are usually explicitly denominational schools. Since 2012 it has been practice to survey parental demand in an area before establishing a new school, to determine under whose patronage a school should be established. As a result of this, multi-denominational schools under the patronage of Educate Together have begun to be established at post primary level. Second level schools may offer either a programme of religious education designed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment designed to cater for all religions or none, or a religious education curriculum approved by the Patron.


Public/private
Secondary and community and comprehensive schools are "private" to the extent that they are locally owned by religious denominations or community interests. Only the 265 vocational schools are State owned.  Of the 735 second level schools, about 55 are private fee-paying schools. The rest are part of the Free Education Scheme funded by the Department and they may not charge fees.
For schools in the Free Education Scheme, the Department funds teacher salaries and running and capital costs, and this is supplemented by fund raising and voluntary contributions. The salaries and running costs of vocational schools are funded through the ETBs.
For private fee paying schools, the Department pays teachers salaries at a higher pupil:teacher ratio than other schools, but does not generally meet their other running costs or capital needs. All schools offer the national curriculum leading to national examinations run by the State Examinations Commission.


Programmes in Post Primary Schools
The Education (Welfare) Act requires all children to attend school between the ages of 6 and 16, or completion of junior cycle, whichever is the later. There is also provision for pupils to be educated at home or elsewhere, provided they receive a "suitable minimum education" required by the Constitution. In practice, over 90% of students remain in school to completion of upper secondary education at age 17-18


The programme of post primary education consists of


a) a 3 year programme of lower secondary education, for students generally aged 12-15, leading to the award of the Junior Certificate. (This is a national exam run by the State Examinations Commission. Early school leavers may enter a 2 year Youthreach programme in the Further Education Sector.


b) an optional 1 year programme called the Transition Year – an estimated 66% follow this option), which forms part of upper secondary education. Those who do not follow this programme may move directly into (c).


c) a two year Leaving Certificate programme culminating in a national leaving Certificate examination run by the State Examinations Commission. This marks the end of upper secondary education. Leaving Certificate students are generally aged 15-18.


National Policy and General Objectives


The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) states that the general aim of education is to contribute towards the development of all aspects of the individual, including aesthetic, creative, critical, cultural, emotional, intellectual, moral, physical, political, social and spiritual development, for personal and family life, for working life, for living in the community and for leisure.


The general objectives of the Junior Certificate programme, initiated in 1989, include the further development and deepening of skills, knowledge, competencies and understandings acquired at primary level. It is also intended to develop young people socially and personally in terms of their self-esteem, competence and ability to take initiative as well as assisting in their moral and spiritual development. The Junior Certificate programme should prepare students for further study, employment and life beyond education as full and active citizens in the local, national, European and global contexts.


The aim of senior cycle education is to equip young people with the knowledge skills and capacity for full participation in further study, and in social and economic life.


At Junior cycle, the system is in a period of transition, with a radical reform of curriculum and assessment under way in all schools. This started with English in 2014, and will be implemented across all subjects on a phased basis over the coming years.


At senior cycle, curriculum reform is also under way, as described in Chapter 14 - Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments. New curricula are being developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, but the priority is to introduce the reforms at junior cycle first in order to create a firm foundation for learners.

The main policy approaches and drivers of reform are


These are described in Chapter 14 Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments. 

6.1 Organisation

Post primary schools are generally all-through schools offering a junior and senior cycle programme. The 3 types of school --- secondary, community and comprehensive and vocational – are described above. They all offer a mix of academic and vocational subjects under the national curriculum leading to national examinations – The Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate.  There is a regional structure only for the 265 vocational schools, which are co-ordinated through 16 regional Education and Training Boards.


Overall there are 735 post primary schools catering for 345,550 pupils in 2015/16.


Students may progress on leaving school to higher education, further education or work. 90% stay in school to completion of upper second level education.
Each school has a board of management representing Patron/ETB, teacher, parent and community interests. The vocational schools operate under the aegis of 16 regional ETBs.


All schools provide the national curriculum. Terms of pay and conditions for secretarial, caretaking, special needs assistant and teaching staff are negotiated centrally by the Department of Education and Skills.


6.1.2 Geographic accessibility


Ireland has a large number of small post-primary schools, as per the table below


Post Primary schools by size 2015/16


Less than 100 pupils
18 schools
                  100-199 pupils
59
                   200-299
110
                   300-399
94
                   400-499     
83
                   500-599
113
                    600-699
94
                    700-799
64
                    800 and over
100 (735 total)


The school transport scheme, which is funded by the Department of Education and Skills, was established in 1967 to give access to school for pupils who live in less-populated areas. In order to qualify for school transport, a post primary child must live more than 4.8 km (3 miles) from their nearest suitable post-primary school. While the service had previously been free for eligible pupils, since the beginning of the 2011/12 school year, eligible pupils are subject to an annual charge. For the school year 2016/17, for families who have eligible children using the post-primary transport scheme, the fee is €350 per student per year, with a maximum charge of €650 per family. Fees are waived for dependants of medical card holders. In addition, there are arrangements in operation for children living on remote islands off the west coast, some of whom avail of a boat transport system to attend schools on the mainland.


A remote area grant is available for those who are eligible for school transport but who cannot be catered for by the school transport scheme. The grant is based on distance and number of days travelled. There are additional arrangements for children with special needs who, because of their disability, cannot travel on normal school transport services. These arrangements are on the basis of advice from the National Council for Special Education.


6.1.3 Admission requirements and choice of school


Legal position


Article 42 of the Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hEireann) 1937 provides that parents are free to provide education in their homes or in private or State recognised schools, and children cannot be compelled against the wishes of their parents to send their children to a State recognised school or a particular type of State recognised school.
Article 44 provides for religious freedom, prevents the State from endowing religion, and prevents the State from discriminating between different religious denominations in providing State aid for schools. Article 44.4 gives rights for any child to attend school funded by the State without attending religious instruction in that school.


The Education (Welfare) Act 2000 requires that children attend school between ages 6 and 16, or otherwise receive a suitable minimum education. Children have the right to attend the school of their parents' choice, once a place is available. No school in the Free Education Scheme may use academic attainment as an admission criterion. The National Council  for Curriculum and Assessment has developed an end of year 6th class  (primary school) report card for the dual purpose of reporting to parents andtransferring information to the child's post primary school. This information has been standardised as an Educational Passport by the NCCA for use with effect from 2014/15. Information is transferred only after the post primary school has confirmed enrolment.  The information is used for assignment to classgroup and planning ongoing learning.


The Education Act, 1998, acknowledges the right of parents/guardians to send their children to the school of their choice with due regard for the obligation of denominational schools to maintain their religious ethos. According to the Education Act 1998, each school must provide an admissions policy. This document, which is drawn up by the school’s board of management, sets out the school’s policy for enrolling children in the school. It must be in line with section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000. If a school does not have sufficient places, it will give priority according to this policy. For example, it may give priority to children living in the local area or to siblings of current pupils. Due to increasing populations in urban and suburban areas, some schools are unable to admit all pupils within their parish. If a school refuses to enrol a child, the parent has the right to appeal the decision. In such cases, they should first appeal to the schools’ board of management. If this is not successful, they can appeal the decision to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Skills, or for vocational schools, to the Education and Training Board in the first instance.


The appeal is heard by an Appeals Committee established under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998. If the parents' or guardians' appeal is upheld, the school may be directed by the Secretary General to enrol the child in the school. If either side is unhappy with the outcome of this process, it has the right to seek redress through the courts.


The Equal Status Act, 2000 provides for possible legal redress should a school discriminate on grounds of sex, age, marital and family status, religion, race/nationality, sexual orientation, disability or membership of the Traveller community. Under the Act, the existence of single sex schools is recognised and the law provides for an exemption in relation to the gender ground. A denominational school can admit a student of a particular religious denomination in preference to other students. Such a school can also refuse to admit a student who is not of that religion, but only where it can prove that this refusal is essential to maintain the ethos of the school


Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016.


Chapter 14.2HI sets out information on the Education (School Admissions) Bill 2016, which is currently progressing through Parliament. When enacted, this will  

   

• Ensure that where a school is not oversubscribed (80% of schools) it must admit all students applying

• Ban waiting lists, thus ending the discrimination against parents who move in to a new area

• Ban fees relating to admissions in non-fee paying schools

• Require all schools to publish their admissions policies, which will include details of the provisions for pupils who decline to participate in religious instruction

• Require all schools to consult with and inform parents where changes are being made to admissions policies

• Explicitly ban discrimination in school admissions

• Provide for a situation where a child (with special needs or otherwise) cannot find a school place, and allow the National Council for Special Education or Tusla (Child and Family Agency) to designate a school place for the child.


6.1.4 Age Levels and Grouping of students


On transferring to a post primary school of their choice, students follow a 3 year Junior cycle programme leading to the award of a Junior Certificate. Junior cycle students are generally aged 12-15 years. After that, they may


(i) follow an optional one year Transition Year programme (66% do this), followed by a 2 year Leaving Certificate programme i.e a 3 year senior cycle. Students are generally aged 16-18
      Or
(ii) move directly into the Leaving Certificate 2 year programme. These students are generally aged 16-17.


Students then progress to higher education, further education and training or the labour market.


The Department of Education and Skills and NCCA encourage mixed ability grouping rather than streaming in post primary schools, although decisions on the allocation of classes are made by schools at local level. Generally, students have different teachers for each subject. The teacher unions have a directive in place urging their members to ensure that class sizes to not exceed 30 for general subjects, 20 for Home Economics and 24 for practical subjects and the Transition Year. Subjects taught at junior and senior cycle are explained in the section below on Teaching and Learning.


6.1.5 Organisation of the school year.


Post-primary schools operating a five-day week are required to provide instruction to students for a minimum of 167 days. Those operating a six-day week (a small number of boarding schools) require a minimum of 187 days per year.  Post-primary schools are also deemed to be in operation when normal instruction may not be taking place. In particular, thirteen days are allowed for the holding of the State Examinations (Junior and Leaving Certificate Examinations). These examinations are generally held during three weeks in June starting on the Wednesday following the public holiday on the first Monday. Agreements reached in late 2010 meant that parent-teacher meetings, staff meetings, teacher in-service and planning days are mainly provided outside of normal tuition hours, up to a total of thirty three hours per year.


The dates for school closure for holidays and mid-term breaks have been regulated since the standardisation of the school year was introduced in 2003. This applies to both primary and post-primary schools. The enclosed Circular to schools sets out the position. Standardised School Year 2014/15 to 2016/17

6.1.6 Organisation of the School Day and Week


Post-primary schools are obliged to operate for 28 hours per week where they offer a five-day week. The vast majority commence teaching around 9am and conclude at 4pm, although voluntary secondary schools may hold classes between 8am and 6pm. A small number of voluntary secondary schools, including boarding schools, operate a six-day week holding classes on Saturday morning also. Some schools (mainly single-sex boys' schools and coeducational schools) do not schedule classes for Wednesday afternoon. In these cases tuition time on the other days of the week is extended to meet the required weekly time allocation. Vocational schools and community colleges generally operate a similar weekly and daily timetable to their secondary, community and comprehensive school counterparts. A minimum of twenty-eight hours of instruction per week is common to all sectors. A sample school week, including shortened Wednesday, would look like the following: 


Out-of-hours provision (before lessons)
 Lessons (starting and finishing times in the morning)
Lunch break  
 Lessons (starting and finishing times in the afternoon)
Out-of-hours provision
(after lessons)
Monday  

9.00 - 1.10
1.10 - 2.00
2.00 - 4.00

Tuesday

 9.00 - 1.10
1.10 - 2.00  
2.00 - 4.00  

Wednesday

9.00 - 1.10  
1.10 - 2.00   


Thursday

9.00 - 1.10  
1.10 - 2.00  
 2.00 - 4.00  

Friday  

 9.00 - 1.10  
1.10 - 2.00  
2.00 - 4.00  

Saturday   





   
Class periods of instruction may vary in length but are most often between 35 and 40 minutes in length. The duration of class periods is at the discretion of the school management. While guidelines and Inspectorate reports offer advice on appropriate timetable allocations for subjects, the Department of Education and Skills has prescribed minimum tuition time in only a small minority of subjects at post-primary level.


6.2 Teaching and Learning in Lower Secondary Education


6.2.1 Curriculum, Subjects, Number of Hours


The curriculum in schools is devised by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (www.ncca.ie) subject to the approval of the Minister for Education and Skills.


The 3 year Junior Cycle curriculum is currently undergoing major reform, which began with English in 2014. It is being implemented on a phased basis. The section below outlines the current position for the majority of subjects (i.e the old curriculum first developed in 1989) and the section on junior cycle reform sets out the changes which will occur.


For the three years of junior cycle (age 12+ to age 15+), at present students in voluntary secondary schools take a number of core subjects (Irish, English, Mathematics, History, Geography, and Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE)) and at least two other subjects from a list that includes European languages, (French, German, Spanish and Italian), Latin, Greek, and Hebrew Studies, Science, Home Economics, Business Studies, Music, Technical Graphics, Materials Technology (Wood), Art, Craft and Design. The curriculums offered in the vocational, comprehensive and community schools in practice, approximate closely with those in the voluntary secondary schools. Comprehensive and community schools are required to provide comprehensive curriculums combining academic and practical subjects. Vocational schools, have, by tradition, emphasised the practical subjects more but currently provide a comprehensive curriculum. 


Some difference in compulsory subjects exists between the voluntary secondary and ETB schools, which mostly relates to History and Geography (compulsory in voluntary secondary but not vocational), and practical subjects (often compulsory in vocational but not in voluntary secondary schools.).


Religious Education and Social Personal and Health Education are also offered. Students have the right of withdrawal from religious education in accordance with their parents' wishes. The NCCA has devised a curriculum in Religious Education designed for pupils of all religions or none, and this is available as an optional examination subject. Alternatively, schools may deliver a religious curriculum approved by the school Patron, and this is not examined by the State Examinations Commission.  Social Personal and Health Education and Physical Education are not examination subjects.


Most subjects are offered at two levels (higher and ordinary) in the Junior Certificate examination, and in the case of Irish, English and Mathematics, at three levels (higher, ordinary and foundation). Only one subject, Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) is examined at common level for all.


The 3 year junior cycle programme leads to the award of the Junior Certificate, an examination offered by the State Examinations Commission. (www.examinations.ie)
Students generally sit examinations in 7-10 subjects.


The Junior Certificate School Programme is designed to reach out more effectively
to the small but important minority of students whose particular needs are not met in the present broadly based Junior Certificate, who are experiencing difficulty in school and may be at risk of early leaving.  It provides for a system of profiling students’ work under which learning targets and statements are used on an ongoing basis to motivate students and give them experience of success, and in so doing, encourage them to attempt as many subjects in the Junior Certificate examinations as they feel able to do. The statements describe an area of knowledge, skills or competence achieved, and build into a Final Profile which supplements their achievements in the Junior Certificate Examinations. Some 5700 students annually in 122 schools follow this option.

The distribution of subjects taken by candidates in the Junior Certificate Examinations 2015 is shown below.


Junior Certificate 2016-  Examination Candidates by Subject
                                                         Total                                               Candidates 

English                                                 

59712                                               99.1%
Maths                                                 
59589                                                 98.9%
CSPE                                                 58625                                                 97.3%

Geography                                          55755                                                 92.5%

Science                                              
55471                                                 92.1% 
History                                               
54246                                                 90.0%
Irish                                                    
52560                                                  87.2%
Business Studies                              
 33538                                                55.7% 
French                                               
31609                                                 52.5%
Religious Education                           
27267                                                 45.3% 
Home Economics                              
21464                                                 35.6% 
Art Craft and Design                          
20714                                                 34.4% 
Material Technology (Wood)             
16385                                                 27.2% 
Technical Graphics                          
11931                                                  19.8%
German                                            
 11833                                                19.6% 
Music                                                
10779                                                  17.9%
Spanish                                               
9044                                                   15.0% 
Metalwork                                            
7887                                                  13.1% 
Technology                                           
3576                                                    5.9%
Classical Studies                                  
572                                                      0.9%
Environmental and Social Studies          
537                                                      0.9% 
Italian                                                     
459                                                      0.8% 
Latin                                                       
 269                                                     0.4% 
Ancient Greek                                          
 39                                                        0.1% 





                                         
     
Total candidates                                            60247  


Curriculum Support and Other Documents


Junior Cycle Subjects syllabuses and guidelines are available on the NCCA website at the link shown.
The Professional Development Service for Teachers (www.pdst.ie) provides ongoing support and development opportunities for teachers.
In 2007, the NCCA developed a Framework for ICT in Curriculum and Assessment which outlines the kinds of learning experiences a student should be afforded through their primary and post-primary education.

The PDST Technology in Education service provides training for teachers in integrating ICT into learning, manages a digital content portal (www.scoilnet.ie)  and manage a schools broadband service desk.


There also have been curricular developments in relation to special education. In 2002, the NCCA produced a number of draft curricular guidelines for the education of pupils with mild, moderate and profound learning disabilities to support the planning and implementation of the curriculum in both mainstream and special schools. Following a process of consultation with teachers, schools and parents, new and revised guidelines were developed and published in 2007.


The Special Education Support Service (www.sess.ie) provides support and professional development for teachers in addressing the needs of pupils with special needs.  The service is part of the work of the National Council for Special Education (www.ncse.ie). The Council was established to improve the delivery of education services to persons with special educational needs arising from disabilities with particular emphasis on children. The Council undertakes consultation and research, provides policy advice to the Minister, and operates a national network of Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) who interact with parents and schools and liaise with the Department of Education and Skills and the Health Services Executive in providing resources to support children with special educational needs.


The key policy influences on curriculum, other than the curriculum documents are


• The EU2020 strategy and indicators
• National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy for Children and Young People 2011-2019 (pdf) 
• Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020
• National Skills Strategy 2025 (pdf)
• Action Plan for Education 2016-2019 (pdf)


These are described in Chapter 14 - Ongoing Reforms and Policy Development.


Language of Instruction
English is the language of instruction for all subjects except Irish in English medium schools.
In Irish medium schools, Irish is the language of instruction in all subjects except English.


Irish is the medium of instruction in


(a) Gaeltacht schools which are designated as Irish speaking areas along the western seaboard. – 19 schools and 2674 pupils (0.8%)
(b) All-Irish schools outside of the Gaeltacht – 29 schools catering for 9292 pupils (2.7%)
(c) 12 schools with all-Irish streams catering for 6961 pupils (2.0%)
(d) other schools where some subjects of the curriculum (other than Irish) are taught in Irish -- 9 schools catering for 5741 pupils (1.7%)


Overall, 24668 students in 69 schools were studying all or some of their subjects, other than Irish, through Irish in 2015/16


Students may get an exemption from Irish if  their education up to 11 was outside the State, if they have re-entered education from outside the State after a period of at least three years and are aged 11 or more, if they have a learning disability of such severity that they fail to achieve expected levels of attainment in basic language skills in the mother tongue, if they have no understanding of either Irish or English on starting school, of if they are refugees and children of diplomatic or consular representatives.

English as an additional Language
To meet the needs of newcomer pupils for whom English is a second language, additional language support is available for pupils. Prior to 2012, specific English Language Support Teachers were appointed to primary and post-primary schools to provide additional language support for pupils The level of extra teaching support provided in respect of language support to any school was determined by the numbers of eligible pupils enrolled and the associated assessed levels of these pupils' language proficiency. This was integrated in 2012 into a combined "general allocation model" for schools, to address their EAL needs and to support students with high incidence levels of disability. Additional teaching resources are provided to  schools with high concentrations of pupils that require language support.
The revised model affords schools autonomy on how to deploy the resource between language support and learning support according to their specific needs.  Schools use  language assessment kits for the accurate initial and on-going assessment of language proficiency of pupils that require language support  (www.ncca.ie ) In collaboration with parents and class teachers, support teachers identify pupils requiring additional support, devise and deliver appropriate language programmes, and record and monitor pupils' progress. Guidelines to support teachers and schools in developing a more inclusive learning environment and in providing pupils with the knowledge and skills they need to participate in a diverse society are available at www.ncca.ie.

To facilitate parents, the Department of Education and Skills has published information on its website in six languages: Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Russian, Spanish and German.


Junior Cycle curriculum reform

At post primary level, the Department of Education and Skills published an updated Framework for Junior Cycle 2015 for the reform of the curriculum in lower secondary education. This builds on earlier proposals by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, which were followed by extensive discussions between the Department and the partners in education.


The new framework provides for the implementation of subjects and short courses, and sets out 24 statements of learning which all students should be offered as part of their programme. These can be achieved through a combination of subjects, or subjects plus short courses.

Short courses are being developed by the NCCA as exemplars, but schools and other organisations also have the flexibility to develop their own. The NCCA short courses will include such areas as Coding, Digital Media Literacy, Caring for Animals (at Level 2) Artistic Performance, Exploring Forensic Science, Chinese etc. Schools were given the flexibility to offer short courses on an optional basis with effect from September 2014.

The eight key skills being embedded in subjects and short courses are

• Being literate
• Being numerate
• Communicating
• Managing myself
• Staying well
• Being creative
• Managing information and thinking
• Working with others

Certification will generally be at Level 3 of the National Framework of Qualifications (EQF Level 2) but Priority Learning Units are being developed at Level 2 and Level 1 (EQF 1) to facilitate the recognition of achievements for students with special needs.  Level 2 Priority Learning Units began in 2014, and Level 1 units will be implemented from 2017.

All subjects and short courses will be offered at a common level (up to now both ordinary and higher level were offered). However, Irish, English and Mathematics will be offered at ordinary and higher levels.  All classroom based assessments will be at a common level.

Phased Implementation of reformed Junior cycle.

Students began studying the new English programme in 2014, and will receive their Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement in 2017. New programmes in Science and Business Studies began in September 2016. Irish and modern languages subjects will start in 2017 and the remaining subjects will be phased in over the period to 2018-2019. 

Programme Supports for the reformed Junior Cycle
The reforms are being supported by

• Subject specification and teacher guidelines, exemplars for short courses, assessment toolkits and examples of student work being developed on an ongoing basis by the NCCA (www.NCCA.ie  – see curriculum on line section)

• A national programme of professional development for school leaders and teachers (www.jct.ie)

• Additional teacher time for planning, assessment and Subject Learning and Assessment Review Meetings

• Management resources.

In the 2017 Budget, an additional 550 additional teaching posts have been announced to provide for extra professional time for teachers in implementing the reforms.

Assessment of learning in the reformed Junior Cycle.

The new Junior Cycle is designed to encourage greater innovation, student engagement and active learning, to provide an inclusive educational experience for all students, to embed key skills, to reform assessment and promote greater professional collaboration between teachers.

 A dual approach to assessment will provide for formative and summative feedback. Forsubjects, assessment will incorporate

• ongoing assessments by the school,
• two Classroom Based Assessments devised by the NCCA, and marked by the teacher (in years 2 and 3),
• and a written Assessment Task and "end of junior cycle" examination set and marked by the State Examinations Commission.

For short courses, assessment will be based on formative assessment and completion of no more than 2 Classroom Based Assessments, based on national descriptors developed by the NCCA, which are marked by the class teacher. 

Subject teachers will participate in Subject Learning and Assessment Review Meetings. At these meetings, teachers will share and discuss representative samples of students’ work and build a common understanding about the quality of their students’ learning. The Subject Learning and Assessment Review meetings will play a key role in developing a collegial professional culture and build up expertise about the judgements that teachers make about student achievement.

At the end of the 3 year cycle a Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement to a standard template will be issued by the school.

The JCPA will capture the different assessment elements undertaken over the three years of junior cycle, including:
• the descriptors of Classroom-Based Assessments in subjects and short courses completed by students and assessed by teachers
• the grades achieved by students on the final examinations marked by the SEC (and, as appropriate, incorporating the outcomes of the Assessment Tasks) completed by students in schools and submitted to the SEC for marking
• the outcomes achieved by students in Priority Learning Units (for the relevant students)
• the achievements of students in other areas of learning.

Up to now, formal assessment of achievement at the end of junior cycle has been based on performance in examinations run by the State Examinations Commission (www.examinations.ie). The changes in assessment are designed to ensure that that assessment for learning is integral to the work of schools, and that students continually receive structured feedback on their own learning. In addition, school based approaches provide for greater flexibility in the modes of assessment which can be used, ensuring that they are appropriate to the learning objectives being promoted and the needs of students..

There was some resistance from teacher unions to the proposals for junior cycle reform, particularly in regard to resourcing and assessment by class teachers, rather than as hitherto by the State Examinations Commission. Compromise proposals were developed and a set pf principles and a package of supports to underpin implementation were agreed by the teacher unions in 2015. However, the membership of one union Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) voted against co-operation in September 2015, with the other union accepting the deal.

The then Minister announced her intention to proceed with the reforms. ASTI continue to have objections to elements of the new arrangements for the Junior Cycle. They object to assessing the Classroom Based Assessments completed by their students, even though this assessment will not form part of the overall assessment of students for State certification purposes. ASTI has directed its teachers that, while they are to teach the new subject specification (syllabus) for English, they are not to undertake the Classroom Based Assessments (CBAs) with their students and not to supervise students as they complete the Assessment Task to be marked by the SEC.

The result of this ASTI directive remaining in place is that students who are taught by a teacher who is a member of the ASTI will not receive a result for their CBAs. Since the completion of the second CBA is linked to the written Assessment Task these students cannot complete that Assessment Task. This means that the student’s Assessment Task will not be sent to SEC and the SEC can only mark the student out of the 90% of the marks that are awarded for the Final Examination in June 2017.  Efforts are continuing to resolve the issue.


Subject Time in the reformed Junior Cycle.


Irish, English and Mathematics will be designed for a minimum of 240 hours of student timetabled engagement over the 3 years of the cycle, and the remaining subjects will be designed for a timetabled student engagement of 200 hours. Short courses will require 100 hours of student engagement.


6.2.2 Teaching Methods and Materials


The Junior Certificate programme is intended to offer a broad curriculum to all junior cycle students. Guidelines are provided for teachers offering advice on the best methods for teaching most of the subjects in the Junior Certificate programme. These documents emphasise the non-prescriptive nature of the suggestions offered and recognise the professional right of teachers to decide on the methods and strategies they will use within their own classrooms.


The curriculum and guidelines for each subject are set out at www.ncca.ie. As new subjects are implemented in the reformed Junior Cycle, they will be supported by a subject specification, assessment guidelines and examples of student work developed by the NCCA (www. NCCA.ie). This is supplemented by the work of Junior Cycle for Teachers, the Professional Development Service for Teachers,  the PDST Technology in Education service, scoilnet, the National Council for Special Education  and Special Education Support Service which provide professional development opportunities, resource materials and guidelines.


Successive School ICT strategies since 1998 have ensured a substantial Government investment in the integration of ICT into teaching and learning. These are described in Chapter 14.  


Schools are free to determine locally what textbooks and resources should be used, but are advised to avoid frequent changes in texts which might give rise to unnecessary additional costs for parents. There is a grant towards free textbooks for needy pupils, but this is much less that the actual cost of books. Schools are also encouraged to operate book rental schemes. Schools designated as disadvantaged receive higher rates of capitation grant and school book grants. Otherwise, costs for books and resources are borne by parents.

Textbooks for schools are prepared by educational publishers, who usually commission expert teachers to write material. The Department of Education and Science and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment maintain ongoing contact with the Irish Educational Publishers Association regarding emerging developments. However, neither the Department nor the NCCA approve textbooks for use in schools.


Homework policy is determined by each school.


6.3 Assessment in Lower Secondary Education


Student Assessment – The present position
School assessment


The Education Act, 1998 requires that schools should provide access by parents to records regarding their children's progress. Ongoing student assessment in post-primary schools is the subject teacher's responsibility and is an integral part of the learning process. All schools organise tests usually called ‘house exams’, before Christmas and towards the end of the school year. These school-based examinations are generally formal in nature and are set by the subject teachers, individually or increasingly as part of a collaborative subject departmental process. Reports giving grades or marks attained and some comment on progress are normally sent to parents. Many teachers also give regular tests within class periods to stimulate the learning process.


State certified examinations.


Up to and including 2016, the Junior Certificate examination, at the end of the compulsory period of education, was an entirely state-certified examination, marking the end of lower secondary education. Performance was externally assessed by the State Examinations Commission (www.examinations.ie) through


(a)  a written terminal examination in every subject at the end of Year 3 of schooling

                                                                and
(b)  project work completed in year 3 in a range of subjects – Art Craft and Design, Metalwork, Home Economics, Science, Civil Social and Political Education, Technology, Materials Technology (Wood) Metalwork, and Religious Education
(c) practical examinations in Art Craft and Design, Music, Home Economics and Metalwork
(d) optional oral examinations in Irish, French, German, Spanish and Italian, with the tests being undertaken and recorded by schools.
The State Examinations Commission publishes sample examination papers, and previous years examination papers. Marking schemes are published. Results are published on a national level for each subject.


Assessment in the reformed Junior Cycle


Assessment under the reformed Junior Cycle is outlined above, and features a combination of school based assessment and external assessment in each subject. English was introduced in 2014, with a Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement to issue in 2017.    New programmes in Science and Business Studies began in September 2016 (JCPA in 2019). Irish and modern languages subjects will start in 2017 and the remaining subjects will be phased in over the period to 2018-2019. 


International Testing


Ireland has participated in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in Maths, Science and Reading Literacy in 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2015. The 2015 study assessed the performance of 15 year olds across 72 countries. 
In Ireland, the tests are administered by the Educational Research Centre (www.erc.ie)  The results for 2015 are available atFuture Ready: PISA 2015 Results Ireland.  


Ireland also participated in Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMMS) in 2015. Students assessed were in 4th class in primary school, and in 2nd year of post primary school. The results are available at TIMMS 2015 in Ireland: Results for Post Primary Schools


School self evaluation


In addition to the above, all schools are required to undertake School Self Evaluations in accordance with guidelines developed by the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills, and report the results to the board of management.


Inspection


The Inspectorate of the Department also undertakes whole-school evaluations and thematic and subject inspections on the performance of schools. Inspection reports are published on the Department's website www.education.ie

Teaching and Learning in Upper Secondary Education


Curriculum, subjects and Number of hours


Senior cycle.


When students have finished junior cycle, they may progress to an optional Transition Year (one year) Programme or move directly into the 2 year Leaving Certificate. 66% of students opt to do the Transition Year first.


The Transition Year Programme was introduced following concerns that students were leaving the education system at too early an age, had insufficient opportunity to sample subject areas before making subject choices at senior cycle which would influence their career choices, and needed a greater focus on personal development, social awareness and skills for life. The key aim of Transition Year is to experience a wide range of educational inputs, sample subjects which have not been taken at lower second level, and provide for a strong focus on personal development, collaborative and experiential learning, learning in the community and work experience. It is a maturing process and a chance to engage in group work, project work and self directed learning.  There is no examination. 40,451 students did the Transition Year in 2015/16, representing about 66% of students.

The Professional Development Service provides support for teachers. Examples of the type of learning experiences in the Transition Year are set out at  http://www.pdst.ie/TY/curriculum These include a continuation of existing core subjects, sampling of new subjects, and special initiatives such as participation in the Student Enterprise Awards, Mini-Company, Young Social Innovators Programme, development education, putting on a drama/school musical, etc. School based assessment forms part of the programme.

The Leaving Certificate Programme at present


Students follow a two year Leaving Certificate Programme as part of senior cycle. The may transfer into Leaving Certificate directly after Junior Cycle, or begin the Leaving Certificate Programme after completing Transition Year.

Three forms of Leaving Certificate are offered -- The established Leaving Certificate, the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme, or the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme. All of them run over 2 years.

Established leaving Certificate

The 33 subjects available are   
 
Irish, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian,, Russian, Arabic, Japanese,  Latin, Ancient Greek, Hebrew Studies, Classical Studies (13)

Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry (combined,) Agricultural Science, (7)

Music, Art (including Crafts) (2)

Home Economics -- Social and Scientific, Engineering, Construction Studies, Design and Communication Graphics, Accounting, Business, Economics, Agricultural Economics (8)

History, Geography and Religion.

Technology has been  added as a senior cycle option from September 2007

Students follow subjects at Ordinary or Higher Level, and there is a Foundation Level for Irish and Mathematics. The norm is to sit 7 subjects in the Leaving Certificate Examination.
Approx 69% of students sit the established Leaving Certificate programme

In the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme, students choose from the range of subjects offered in the established Leaving Certificate programme. They must study at least two related technical/vocational subjects or a technical/vocational subject linked with business skills, allied to new technology skills, a continental language, enterprise training and a work experience programme. 

In effect, they follow primarily the established Leaving Certificate programmes in designated subject groupings, with the addition of  Link Modules consisting of Enterprise Education and Preparation for the World of Work. The Link Modules are nationally assessed and lead to a Pass, Merit or Distinction. Some 16000 annuallystudents (c 27% of the cohort) follow this option.

The curriculum for the established Leaving Certificate subjects are available at http://www.curriculumonline.ie/Senior-cycle/Senior-Cycle-Subjects.  Guidelines for the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme and Link Modules are available at http://www.pdst.ie/node/2197

In general, Leaving Certificate subjects are designed to be delivered over 180 hours of learning per subject over the 2 year period.

The table below shows the distribution of candidates by subject in 2016



Leaving Certificate Exam Candidates 2016 


                                                          Total 

Mathematics  
54226
97.3%
English
53710 
 96.4%
Irish 
47213 
84.8%
Biology 
34102 
61.2%
French 
25758 
46.2%
Geography  
24115
43.3%
Business
 17456 
31.3%
History  
12381
22.2%
Home Economics S&S  
11642
20.9%
Art 
9749 
17.5%
Chemistry 
9089 
16.3%
Construction  
8553
15.4%
Agricultural Science
 7894 
14.2%
Physics 
7752 
13.9%
German  
7627
13.7%
Accounting 
6626
11.9%
Music  
6597
11.8%
Spanish
 6579 
11.8%
Economics  
5713
10.3%
Design and Communication Graphics  
5524
9.9%
Engineering  
5379
9.7%
Applied Maths 
2089 
3.7%
Technology  
1415
2.5%
Religious Education 
1320 
2.4%
Classical Studies  
657
1.2%
Physics and Chemistry  
578
1.0%
Italian  
512
0.9%
Russian  
333
0.6%
Japanese  
326
0.6%
Arabic 
110 
0.2%
Latin 
104 
0.2%
Agricultural Economics 104 0.2%

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Total candidates                                 55708 

The Leaving Certificate Applied Programme (LCA) is aimed at those for whom the established Leaving certificate is unsuitable. The LCA emphasises experiential learning practical project and portfolio work and the completion of Tasks throughout the cycle towards the final assessment.

Courses are offered in 3 main areas -- vocational preparation and training,(including enterprise and a work experience programme and communications) general education and vocational education.

The programme is modular and vocational specialisms are chosen from the range which includes
 
Agriculture/Horticulture
Hotel, Catering and Tourism
Engineering
Technology
Office Skills and Retail Distribution,
Community Care,
Construction/Manufacturing,
Craft and Design
IT
Hair Care
Leisure Studies (11)

Students are examined in English and Communications, 2 vocational specialisms,
Mathematical Applications, Language (Irish and Modern European language) and
Social education. Some 2600 students annually (c 4% of the cohort) follow this option.

The curriculum and supports for the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme are available at http://www.pdst.ie/lca

Senior Cycle Curriculum Reform

At senior cycle, reforms are under way to update curricula, to provide for short courses as well as subjects, to embed key skills (information processing, being personally effective, communicating, critical and creative thinking, and working with others), to provide for a greater range of modes of assessment, to encourage active learning and innovation, and to address issues concerned with rote learning and the predictability of examinations.  These changes are being included on a phased basis as subject syllabi are revised. For a high stakes examination such as the Leaving Certificate, which is a key determinant of progression to employment or further study, there are no plans to move away from assessments externally set and marked by the State Examinations Commission.

A number of syllabi have been revised by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, but further development work is under way before implementation commences in schools.  It is considered important to implement the changes at junior cycle first in order to provide an appropriate foundation for senior cycle reform.

A new Leaving Certificate subject "Politics and Society" began in September 2016 in 41 schools. This will be expanded to all schools over the following 2 years. The new subject has four main strands of study – power and decision-making, active citizenship, human rights and responsibilities, globalisation and localisation. This builds on what is already a mandatory area of learning for all students in junior cycle. 

Teaching Methods and Materials.
The position at senior cycle is the same as that for junior cycle above in regard to methods, textbooks and homework. Decisions on approaches are made at teacher/school level, and there is an extensive range of guidance and support materials available.


6.3 Assessment in Upper Secondary Education
School assessment
The Education Act, 1998 requires that schools should provide access by parents to records regarding their children's progress. Ongoing student assessment in post-primary schools is the subject teacher's responsibility and is an integral part of the learning process. All schools organise tests usually called ‘house exams’, before Christmas and towards the end of the school year. These school-based examinations are generally formal in nature and are set by the subject teachers, individually or increasingly as part of a collaborative subject departmental process. Reports giving grades or marks attained and some comment on progress are normally sent to parents. Many teachers also give regular tests within class periods to stimulate the learning process.


The Transition Year programme is generally assessed through a portfolio of achievement prepared at school level. There are no formal external examinations.


External Assessment in the Leaving Certificate
The Leaving Certificate examinations operated by the State Examinations Commission mark the end of upper secondary education. Performance is externally assessed by the State Examinations Commission (www.examinations.ie) through


(a) a written terminal examination in every subject at the end of the final year of schooling
                                                                and
(b) oral and aural tests in the subjects Irish, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Japanese.
(c)  There are practical examinations in the subjects Engineering, Construction Studies, Art and Music.
(d) There is Practical Course Work in the subjects Engineering; Construction Studies; Agricultural Economics; Agricultural Science; LCVP; History; Geography, Religious Education, Design and Communication Graphics and Technology, and in the LCVP Link Modules.


The State Examinations Commission publishes sample examination papers, and previous years examination papers. Marking schemes are published. Results are published on a national level for each subject.

The LCVP Link Modules are assessed through a written examination and practical course work.

The Leaving Certificate Applied Programme is assessed through written examinations and the completion of Assessment Tasks over two years in respect of each mdoule. Credits are awarded for the satisfactory completion of modules, the performance in student tasks and performance in the written terminal examinations.  Final examinations count for 34% of the overall mark.


School self evaluation


In addition to the above, all schools are required to undertake School Self Evaluations in accordance with guidelines developed by the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills, and report the results to the board of management.


Inspection
The Inspectorate of the Department also undertakes whole-school evaluations and thematic and subject inspections on the performance of schools. Inspection reports are published on the Department's website www.education.ie


6.3.2 Progression of Students


It is the stated policy of the Department of Education and Skills that all students should progress from their current year group to the next one at the end of each school year. In certain instances, delegated authority within defined limits has been given to schools to permit students to repeat a year. Nearly all students progress from junior cycle to senior cycle within the same post-primary school. Success in examinations is not a pre-requisite for progression to the next year of schooling. Success in the Junior Certificate examination is not essential for progression to Leaving Certificate.


Each year a small number of students opt to re-sit the Leaving Certificate examination. In 2015/16, repeat Leaving Certificate examination students accounted for just under 3% of all school candidates taking the examination that year.


Most students progress from senior cycle in a post-primary school to higher education or a Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) course or other vocational training in the Further Education and Training Sector.


Entry to higher education from the school system is in an order of merit based on the grades achieved in the Leaving Certificate. The LCVP and Leaving Certificate established both give direct access to higher education. The Leaving Certificate Applied gives access to Post Leaving Certificate or other courses in the FET sector. Holders for FET level 5 and 6 (PLC) certificates may progress from there to higher education.

Two new reports on those who left post primary education in 2010/11 were published in March 2016.  These reports show that of those who completed upper secondary education, 52.3% progressed to higher education, 28.2% went to further education or training, 7.3% were employed and 6.9% were welfare recipients. Of those who left school early, 66.6% were in further education or training (of whom 15.7%  were outside the State). 4.4% were in employment, and 6.6% were welfare recipients.

6.3.3 Certification


Up to an including 2016, the Junior Certificate was assessed externally by the State Examinations Commission (www.examinations.ie) which normally issues the results in September. The certificate shows the grades and level achieved in each subject over 7 grade bands – A, B, C, D. E. F, NG (no grade). Achievement at grade D or above is viewed as a "pass". Achievement is at Level 3 of the National Qualifications Framework. (EQF Level 2 or ISCED 2. The Junior Certificate is achieved at the end of Year 3 in lower secondary education, generally at age 15.


With effect from the first examination in 2017, the Junior Cycle is being substantially reformed, on a phased basis beginning with English. As the new subjects and short courses are implemented, they will be certified through a Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement to a standard template which will be issued by the school. This will feature a combination of school certified, and State Examinations Commission certified learning as described above.

Certification in the Leaving Certificate is externally assessed and certified by the State Examinations Commission. Results are issued in Mid-August.

For the established Leaving Certificate, the certificate shows the grade and level achieved in each subject. This is spread over 14 grade bands at present (A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3, C1, C2, C3, D1, D2, D3, E and NG). With effect from 2017 this will be reduced to 8 bands. Achievement in the Leaving Certificate is at levels 4 and 5 of the National Qualifications Framework (EQF levels 3 and 4, and ISCED 3)

For the LCVP Link Modules, and the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme, certification indicates the title of the module and the grade achieved – Pass Merit or Distinction or if the candidate was not successful.

Given the high stakes nature of the Leaving Certificate, which is a major pathway to higher education, candidates given their initial results may ask to view their scripts. They can then appeal their results, having compared their scripts with published marking schemes.

Junior and Leaving Certificates are widely used by employers for entry into a wide range of occupations, although candidates with a further or higher qualification have a clear advantage.


Post Secondary Non Tertiary Education
This is described in Chapter 8 Adult Education