Ambitious plans for a reimagined higher education cycle for post-primary students have been unveiled by Education Minister Norma Foley.

The revamped secondary 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 emphasize additional assessment elements outside of the traditional final written exams.

Minister Foley said: “The second half of post-primary education, the senior cycle, prepares our students for the next stage of their lives. Whether they choose a path of continuing education, apprenticeship, higher education or employment, it is essential that the education and opportunities they receive in their school life at secondary level develop them academically, nurture them as people and help them develop their talents, interests and skills.

“It is therefore vital that the form of assessment we use both reflects high 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, reduce pressure while maintaining standards, follow the evolution of international practices and meet the needs and expectations of our students and our society in the preparing our young people for the world to come.”

She continued: “The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has produced an excellent advisory report on the postgraduate review. It is based on extensive research, conducted over four years. It captures the views of partners of education on all aspects of higher education, giving real weight to the voice and experience of students, to the learning of educators, to international experience.

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

“The plan I have presented today is informed by all of these elements. This program is timely and ambitious – we must not rush, but cannot delay. The timetable I have set will ensure that students in will feel the benefits sooner rather than later.”

Minister Foley has established a vision and work program that encompasses the following elements:

  • introduction of new curricula for upper cycle subjects, updating of subject content
  • the introduction of new subjects, providing greater choice for students to better reflect their range of interests and supporting the development of a wider range of talents and skills. Two new subjects – Drama, Film and Theater Studies; and Climate Action and Sustainable Development, will be ready for students in network schools from year five in 2024
  • modify the final assessment procedure to significantly reduce the reliance on final exams and introduce teacher-based assessment elements
  • as Leaving Certificate subjects are revised, they will have additional assessment items to the conventional written examination worth 40% of the total marks; the written exam worth 60% of the final grade
  • the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the SEC will jointly research and define, in consultation with education partners, how a form of school-based assessment moderated by the SEC would work
  • the first tranche of new and revised subjects will be available in September 2024, when students entering fifth grade in network schools will study updated subject curricula, with updated assessment models in optional chemistry subjects , physics, biology and business
  • to ensure a positive impact on students as soon as possible, established Leaving Certificate students entering Higher Education in September 2023 will take Paper 1 in English and Irish at the end of year five
  • it is planned that in the future the oral exams and the practical work of music will take place during the first week of the Easter holidays of 6ème as is the case this year
  • to further enhance student options, Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students will have greater access to modern math and foreign languages ​​from September 2022, expanding options for the LCA
  • a new qualification will be introduced at levels one and two of the National Qualifications Framework to provide an appropriate level of assessment for some pupils with special educational needs, building on the equivalent curriculum at junior cycle level
  • a revised Transition Year curriculum will be established and greater access to the Transition Year for all students will be encouraged


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