Major Leaving Cert reform to see students sit some exams in fifth year

The Department of Education confirmed key changes to the senior cycle on Tuesday
Major Leaving Cert reform to see students sit some exams in fifth year

Sarah Mooney

Major reform of the Leaving Certificate will see students sit some exams during fifth rather than sixth year in a move to reduce student stress levels.

The Department of Education confirmed on Tuesday that changes to the senior cycle, aimed at “managing the assessment burden,” will include the development of new and revised subjects to reduce reliance on final exams.

These subjects will have a maximum of 60 per cent of the total marks awarded for the written exam paper, with the balance awarded to another assessment component.

It is understood that from this September onwards, students will sit Leaving Cert Irish and English paper one at the end of fifth year.

The marks for paper one will be “banked” and added to the marks awarded for paper two, which students will take in June of their sixth year.

The running of orals and practical music examinations at Easter in the last two years is also being reviewed, with it “hoped to run the examinations in this way in the future.”

Minister for Education Norma Foley said the reform will “enrich students’ educational experience by increasing their choices to match their interests.”

“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,” she said.

New subjects

The development of new subjects and revised curricula for all existing subjects is to be informed by the views of students and teachers “in a co-creation process,” the Department of Education said.

It is expected that a selection of schools, representative of different types and sizes, will become “network schools” and participate at an early stage in the revised curriculum and assessment arrangements.

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.

An initial tranche of new and revised subjects will be available in network schools in September 2024, when students entering fifth year will study updated subject curricula, with updated assessment models in the optional subjects of Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Business.

Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students will also have improved access to Mathematics and Modern Foreign Languages from September 2022, in a move to broaden their options.

A revised Transition Year programme will also be established, with greater access to the year to be encouraged for all students.

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 on Tuesday.

The Department said a Senior Cycle Programme Delivery Board will be established, with responsibility for overseeing the achievement of the new reforms.

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