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Leaving the old, entering the new – Leaving Cert revisions on the way

Exams under way, Image / Megan Gorman 

Substantial changes to the Leaving Certificate Curriculum are on the way starting from this September. 

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD, announced on Tuesday 29 March her ambitious plans for a reimagined Senior Cycle of education for post-primary students. 

“It will reduce the pressure on students that comes from final assessments based primarily on examinations. We will move to a model that uses other forms of assessment, over a less concentrated time period, in line with international best practice.” 

The redeveloped Senior Cycle will include the development of new subjects and revised curricula for all existing subjects. Students will be asked for their input on this development alongside teachers as a co-creation process.

These will include a significant emphasis on additional assessment components outside of the traditional final written exams. 

Education Minister and TD Norma Foley, Image/ Killarney Today

Minister Foley said: “This is an ambitious programme of reform. It will enrich students’ educational experience by increasing their choices to match their interests and enhancing teaching and learning. 

“It will reduce the pressure on students that comes from final assessments based primarily on examinations. We will move to a model that uses other forms of assessment, over a less concentrated time period, in line with international best practice.” 

Amongst the changes being introduced are: 

  • Introduction of new curricula for subjects across Senior Cycle, updating subject content. 
  • The introduction of new subjects provides a greater choice for students to better reflect their range of interests, and support the development of a wider range of talents and skills. Two new subjects – Drama, Film and Theatre Studies; and Climate Action and Sustainable Development, will be ready for students in network schools starting fifth year in 2024. 
  • Changing the final assessment procedure to significantly reduce reliance on final examinations and introduce teacher-based assessment components. 
  • As Leaving Certificate subjects are revised they will have assessment components additional to the conventional written examination worth 40% of the total marks; with the written examination worth 60% of the final score. 
  • The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and SEC will jointly research and define, in consultation with education partners, how an SEC-externally moderated, a school-based form of assessment would operate.  
  • The initial tranche of new and revised subjects will be available in September 2024, when students entering fifth year in network schools will study updated subject curricula, with updated assessment models in the optional subjects of Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Business. 

The review has made us more aware of the need for greater flexibility, such as that shown across education in responding to the Covid-19 crisis.

Prof Mary O’Sullivan

Further changes include:

  • To ensure a positive impact on students as soon as possible, Leaving Certificate Established students entering Senior Cycle in September 2023 will sit Paper 1 in English and Irish at the end of fifth year.  
  •  It is intended that in the future Oral examinations and the Music practical performance will take place during the first week of the Easter break of sixth year, as is the case this year. 
  • To enhance students’ options further, Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students will have improved access to Mathematics and Modern Foreign Languages from September 2022, broadening the options for LCA. 
  • A new qualification will be introduced at level one and two on the National Qualification framework to provide an appropriate level of assessment to some students with special educational needs, building on the equivalent programme at Junior Cycle level. 
  • A revised Transition Year programme will be established, and greater access to Transition Year for all students will be encouraged. 

The reform programme has been informed by the Senior Cycle Review Advisory Report prepared by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), which was also published. 

Prof Mary O’Sullivan, NCCA Chairperson, commenting on the Advisory Report, said: “The Senior Cycle Review has highlighted what works and what could be better in our current Senior Cycle. It has made us more aware of the need for greater flexibility, such as that shown across education in responding to the Covid-19 crisis. Students in the Senior Cycle want to make choices which respond to their needs and interests.” 

For more information and guidance, visit gov.ie.

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