Examination Options

Curriculum Organisation at post-primary level

Students with SEN attending mainstream post-primary schools may be able to follow the traditional route of Junior Certificate followed by Leaving Certificate. Other students may need an adapted curriculum, tailored to their individual needs and abilities.

Curricular Options in Mainstream Post- Primary School

(1) Guidelines for Teachers of Students with General Learning Disabilities

This is a resource for the teaching of students with mild, moderate, severe or profound general learning disabilities. They can be used alone, or in tandem with other post-primary curricular options. Teachers can select from these guidelines what is appropriate to their student’s personal strengths and learning needs. There are specific post-primary guidelines for students with mild general learning difficulties. For students with a moderate, severe or profound learning disability, the primary school guidelines will still be relevant. Please see the NCCA section for details of how to access these guidelines online.

(2) Junior Certificate and the Junior Certificate Schools Programme

The programme of study followed in junior cycle varies. Almost all students take courses leading to the Junior Certificate, the State examination taken at the end of the third year of junior cycle when students are 15 years of age. In order to enable them to reach and undertake the Junior Certificate Examination, students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds and those viewed as at risk of leaving school early may follow the Junior Certificate School Programme.

2 (a) Junior Certificate:

The Junior Certificate is the State examination taken at the end of the third year of junior cycle, when students are 15 years of age. Subjects are normally studied at either Ordinary or Higher Level, although three subjects, Irish, English and mathematics, can also be studied at Foundation Level. While a majority of subjects are assessed as part of the Junior Certificate Examination, the junior cycle provision also includes a number of subjects that are integral to the curriculum, but are not formally assessed in this way. The inclusion of these subjects in the curriculum ensures that students receive a broad, balanced education that introduces them to all the areas of experience relevant to the needs of learners at this age and stage of their development. Non-examination subjects at junior cycle include Physical Education, Social, Personal and Health Education and Computer Studies, while Religious Education is available both as an examination and non-examination subject (from NCCA Junior Cert web page)

    • Range of subjects
    • Art , Craft & Design
    • Business Studies
    • CSPE
    • Classical Studies
    • English
    • Environmental & Social Studies
    • French
    • Gaeilge
    • Geography
    • German
    • Greek
    • Hebrew Studies
    • History
    • Home Economics
    • Italian
    • Latin
    • Materials Technology ~ Wood
    • Maths
    • Metalwork
    • Music
    • P.E
    • Science
    • SPHE
    • Spanish
    • Technical Graphics
    • Technology
    • Typewriting

2 (b) Junior Certificate School Programme [JCSP]

The Junior Certificate School Programme is a national programme sponsored by the Department of Education and Science and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). Currently the programme is operating in over 200 schools throughout the country. The Junior Certificate School Programme aims to assist schools in making the Junior Certificate more accessible to young people who may be at risk of leaving school without a formal qualification. It attempts to help young people experience success and develop a positive self-image by providing a curriculum and assessment framework suitable to their needs. On completion of the programme students receive a profile which is an official record of their achievements.

The JCSP operates within the Junior Certificate Curriculum, it is not an alternative to it

    • All JCSP students follow the courses leading to the Foundation level Examinations in English & Maths and a suitable course in Irish. Other subjects are included in their timetable, following consultation with school authorities and parents
    • The main added support structure is a Student Profiling System which allows for continuous assessment of pupils work during the year. The Student Profile is an individualised record of achievements demonstrated by the student over a period of time. Through profiling a student’s work in Junior Cycle classes, students are provided with opportunities to engage with the curriculum and to achieve success at school. They get an official certificate of their achievements, validated by the Department of Education and Science, in addition to their regular Junior Certificate Examination Certificate.

Note: Not all schools run the JCSP, please check with your local post-primary school

(3) Leaving Certificate (Established)

The traditional Leaving Certificate (Established) is a two-year programme that aims to provide learners with a broad, balanced education while also offering them a chance to specialise in the general area of a particular future career option. Students following the programme study at least five subjects, one of which must be Irish. In general, students take five or more subjects (usually seven) for examination. Subjects are normally studied at either Ordinary or Higher Level. Two subjects, Irish and Mathematics, can be studied at Foundation Level. Foundation Level is geared to the needs of students who might have difficulty with those subjects at Ordinary or Higher Level. Syllabi are available in 33 subjects

(4) Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP)

This programme is designed to give a strong vocational dimension to the traditional Leaving Certificate. Candidates taking the LCVP have a unique opportunity to develop their interpersonal, vocational and technological skills. The primary goal of the LCVP is to prepare young people for adult life. Participants in the programme are encouraged to develop skills and competencies fundamental to both academic and vocational success. LCVP is a two year programme structured around two elements:

    • Leaving Certificate subjects selected from Vocational Subject Groupings
    • Two additional courses of study, known as the Link Modules. These are: Preparation for the World of Work and Enterprise Education.

(5) Leaving Certificate Applied Programme (LCA)

The Leaving Certificate Applied is a self-contained Leaving Certificate programme. The programme is designed for those students who do not wish to proceed directly to higher education or for those whose needs, aptitudes and learning styles are not fully catered for by the other two Leaving Certificate programmes. Participants in the Leaving Certificate Applied are mainly engaged in work and study of an active, practical and student-centred nature. The main aim of the Leaving Certificate Applied is to prepare participants for transition from the world of the school/centre to that of adult and working life. The LCA uses a unique system of assessment. The students’ work is assessed over the two years of the programme and they gain credits as they go along. Practicals, interviews and written exams are among the different forms of assessment used. The students’ communication, problem solving and practical skills are also assessed.

(6) FETAC Level 3 Courses

FETAC (Further Education and Training Awards Council) awards are assessments, not exams, and are available in a wide variety of subject areas, at different levels. Completing a FETAC approved course enables a learner to gain a qualification which gives recognition for:

    • Specific personal skills, practical skills and knowledge
    • Basic transferable skills
    • The enhancement of individual talents and qualities
    • Achievements and learning relevant to a variety of progression options

Note: Not all post-primary schools offer the JCSP, LCVP or LCA programmes – please check with individual schools

Curricular Options at Special Schools

Students with SEN attending special schools will probably need an adapted curriculum relative to their needs and abilities. In this regard, a good starting point is the relevant elements of the NCCA Guidelines for Teachers of Students with General Learning Disabilities. Some students may be able to follow aspects of the Junior Certificate or the Junior Certificate Schools Programme. A number of special schools are offering the full Leaving Certificate Applied Programme; others offer a range of FETAC Level 3 courses.

Reasonable Accommodations

Post-primary students with special needs may have special arrangements made for them while sitting State examinations (the Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate examinations). Candidates with disabilities can apply through their school for Reasonable Accommodation in Certificate Examinations (RACE). These reasonable accommodations are intended to:

    • remove, as far as possible, the impact of the disability on the candidate’s performance and enable them to demonstrate their level of attainment
    • ensure that while giving candidates every opportunity to demonstrate their level of attainment, the candidate is not given an unfair advantage over other candidates in the same examination.

Examples of reasonable accommodation include the following:

    • Exemption from some components of an exam if a student’s particular special need means they cannot complete it (e.g. students with a hearing impairment may be exempted from the aural exams as part of their language subjects)
    • The provision of enlarged and/or Braille versions of questions for visually impaired students
    • Use of voice-activated computers, tape recorders or scribes (other people to do the writing)
    • A reader to read the questions to the candidate
    • In the case of aural examinations, the candidate may be allowed to sit in a separate room

Schools also have the authority to make a number of other arrangements to facilitate examination candidates with special needs without requesting advance permission from the Commission. These include:

    • Granting breaks or rest periods in each examination session that are warranted by the physical or medical condition of the candidate.
    • Allowing candidates to take medicine, food or drinks into the examination centre where this is required for medical reasons.
    • Allowing the candidate to move within the centre.
    • Allowing the use of a special desk or chair used in the classroom.
    • Allowing the use of low vision aids used normally in the classroom.
    • Ensuring that a candidate with a hearing impairment is positioned close to the superintendent.

(Information adapted from State Examinations Commission and Citizens Information Bureau Websites)

Note: Where an element of an examination has been waived, or the method of examining has been significantly altered, this will be indicated by the presence of an explanatory note on the candidate’s certificate.

Helpful examination-related links