Leaving Certificate, or Senior Cycle, is a two- or three-year programme at secondary level, depending on whether the optional Transition Year is taken. Transition Year (TY) is available in many post-primary schools. It immediately follows the junior cycle and provides an opportunity for students, including students with special educational needs, to experience a wide range of educational inputs, including work experience, over the course of a year that is free from formal exams.
During the final two years of Senior Cycle students can take one of three programmes, each leading to a state examination. These three programmes are:
- The traditional Leaving Certificate (Established)
- The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP)
- The Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA).
Each programme has different aims and a different focus. The ways in which pupils are assessed also varies across the three programmes.
Both LCVP and LCA have modules focussed on preparing for work. LCVP students have the same opportunity to proceed to universities and other third-level institutions as students in the Leaving Certificate (established) programme.
LCA represents a major achievement for the thousands who take part each year, many of whom might otherwise have been at risk of dropping out of school. Rather than the A, B, C, honours or pass grades given for traditional Leaving Cert subjects, LCA students are awarded based on credits accumulated over the two years of the programme, including those earned at written exams in June.
The LCA subjects available include English and communication, social education, European languages, craft and design, active leisure studies, horticulture, hair and beauty, and mathematical appliances.
However, it is important to note that LCA subjects do not meet the minimum requirements for entry to 3rd Level and cannot be counted towards third-level courses in the CAO. This also closes off the DARE access route to college. Holders of LCA can proceed from second level to a PLC course and in turn, to third-level on the basis of a QQI award (formerly FETAC). The key here is to identify the available progression routes.
Local schools will be able to advise parents about which are the most suitable programmes for their child following the junior cycle.
SUPPORTS AVAILABLE AT SECOND LEVEL
Reasonable accommodation in the State Certificate Examinations
Secondary school students with special needs may have special arrangements made for them while sitting State examinations such as the Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate. Candidates with disabilities (for example, visual impairments, motor and mobility impairments, etc.) can apply through their school for reasonable accommodation during examinations.
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) operates the Reasonable Accommodation in Certificate Examinations (RACE) scheme.
Under the RACE scheme, pupils with permanent or long-term conditions*, which will significantly impair their performance in state exams, may apply to the SEC for a reasonable accommodation(s) to be made to facilitate them taking the examinations (www.examinations.ie). These accommodations include:
- Exemption from certain parts of the exam
- Arrangements to have question papers read to the student
- Braille translation of question papers
- Permission to record answers on tape recorder, typewriter or word-processor
- Dictation of answers to a person acting as a scribe rather than to a tape recorder
- Ten minutes extra time.
*Permanent or long-term conditions include: visual or hearing difficulties and specific learning difficulties, that they believe will specifically impair their performance in examinations may apply to the State Exams Commission for a reasonable accommodation to be made to facilitate them in taking the examination. The school can assist with the application of this accommodation.
Reasonable Accommodations at the Certificate Examinations (RACE)
The RACE scheme aims to assist students who are at a disadvantage due to a disability, by facilitating access to the state certificate examinations. The scheme has been the subject of much discussion and controversy in recent months and is currently undergoing changes.
Details of the revised scheme of reasonable accommodations are available here on the State Examinations Commission website.
The following additional supports are provided to Post-primary schools:
- Resource-teaching hours are allocated on behalf of individual students with special educational needs in accordance with each student's assessed special educational needs. The core task of the Resource teacher is the teaching of students with SEN, whether this is done one-to-one, in small groups, in special classes or through co-operative teaching with colleagues. Hours are allocated to the school in keeping with the regulations and guidelines provided by the NCSE (National Council for Special Education) and the Department of Education and Skills.
- The role of the learning support teacher is to provide additional teaching support to students with low achievement in literacy or mathematics or to those with mild or transient difficulties in such areas as language and motor coordination. Learning support teacher posts are allocated to secondary schools in accordance with the number of students enrolled.
- Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are allocated to mainstream post-primary schools to provide care and assistance to named students who have special educational needs through the NCSE. Special needs assistant posts are allocated following application to the SENO. Special Needs Assistants are recruited specifically to assist schools in providing the necessary non-teaching services to students with assessed educational needs. The allocation of posts to the school is reviewed each year.
For further details, see 'Children with Special Educational Needs' (NCSE)
Exemption from the study of Irish: Provision can be made for certain students to be exempted from the study of Irish in limited circumstances. Students in certain categories of disability are eligible for exemption. Details of this scheme are available HERE.
An exemption from the study of Irish means that a student attending a primary or post-primary school is not required to study Irish. Irish is a compulsory subject in schools recognised by the Department, however, there are certain limited circumstances whereby an exemption may be granted. The authority to grant an exemption has been delegated to school management.
How do I apply for an exemption from the study of Irish?
Parents/Guardians should apply in writing on behalf of their child stating the grounds on which an exemption is being sought to the school principal. A child will only be considered for an exemption where his/her educational circumstances come within the provisions in departmental circulars 12/96 (primary) or M10/94 (post-primary).
- who function intellectually at average or above average level but have a Specific Learning Disability of such a degree of severity that they fail to achieve expected levels of attainment in basic language skills in the mother tongue, or
- who have been assessed as having a general learning disability due to serious intellectual impairment [i.e. mental handicap] and are also failing to attain adequate levels in basic language skills in the mother tongue.
- who have been assessed as having a general learning disability due to serious sensory impairment, and are also failing to attain adequate levels in basic language skills in the mother tongue.
The evidence of such a disability should be furnished by a qualified psychologist, supported in the case of (iii) by a report from an appropriate medical specialist. In addition, a full report on the pupil should be furnished by the school.