Changes announced to second level senior cycle with students set to sit some Leaving Cert exams in fifth year

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 
Changes announced to second level senior cycle with students set to sit some Leaving Cert exams in fifth year

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 

Ambitious plans for a reimagined Senior Cycle of education for post-primary students has been unveiled by Minister for Education Norma Foley.

The redeveloped Senior Cycle will include the development of new subjects and revised curricula for all existing subjects, which will be informed by the views of students and teachers in a co-creation process. 

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

Minister Foley said: "The second half of post-primary education, Senior Cycle, prepares our students to progress to the next stage in their lives. Whether they choose a path of further training, apprenticeship, higher education or employment, it is vital that the education and the opportunities they receive in their school life at second level develops them academically, nurtures them as people and supports them to grow their talents, interests and skills.

"It is then vital that the form of assessment we use both reflects excellence in standards and truly enables all students to showcase their abilities.

"Our current system has many strengths. But we know that it can be improved, to better support our students, to reduce pressure while maintaining standards, to keep pace with the changes in practices internationally and to meet the needs and expectations of our students and of our society in preparing our young people for the world ahead."

She continued: "The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has produced an excellent advisory report on the review of senior cycle. It is based on extensive research, conducted over four years. It captures the views of education partners across every aspect of senior cycle, giving real weight to the student voice and experience, the learnings of educators, the international experience.

"I have considered the report carefully, and have also been informed by the learnings we have garnered from reflecting on the experiences of Leaving Certificate 2020 and 2021, the value of the involvement and reflections of students, educators and other experts both nationally and internationally, including the OECD.

"The plan I have set forth today is informed by all of these. This programme is timely and ambitious – we must not rush, but cannot delay. The timing I have set out will ensure that students will feel the benefits at the earliest possible time."

Minister Foley has set out a vision and programme of work which encompasses the following:

  • introduction of new curricula for subjects across Senior Cycle, updating subject content 
  • the introduction of new subjects, providing 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, 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 
  • 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 into the future Oral examinations and the Music practical performance will take place during the first week of the Easter break of 6th 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 

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