Secondary Education

According to the National Framework of Qualifications, Irish Education is classified into 10 levels while levels 3-6 are secondary education qualifications, including secondary schools, vocational schools, community colleges and comprehensive schools. Irish secondary education starts at 12 years old and students will attend 3 years of junior schools and 3 years of senior schools. These schools offer certificate courses regulated by the QQI and arrange for their students to participate in national exams. There are three leaving certification options available for students. Most students follow either The Leaving Certificate Established (LCE) or the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) which are similar, except the LCVP students study two vocational modules in addition to their leaving certificate subjects. Some students choose the Leaving Cert Applied (LCA), which is a programme that emphasizes practical or vocational skills.

Irish Secondary Schools

Junior Cycle

Starting from 2022, all primary cycle subjects and short courses have been revised, and the old primary certificate has been completely abolished. The primary cycle focuses on eight core skills: Being Literate, Managing myself, Staying well, Managing information & Thinking, Being numerate, being creative, working with others and communicating.

The Junior Cycle curriculum combines full subjects and short courses. Students generally study around 9 to 10 subjects and are required to take the Junior Certificate public exam in their third year. The compulsory subjects include English, Irish (international students over 12 years old may be exempt), mathematics, a Foreign Language (Italian, Spanish, German, French etc.), religious education, and physical education. Depending on the school, additional core subjects like history or geography may be included. Moreover, students are also expected to participate in courses such as SPHE, CSPE, and physical education courses.

Short courses are also available to students that aim to enrich their educational experience. These short courses cover diverse areas such as performing arts, digital media culture, social, personal, and health education (SPHE), civic, social, and personal education (CSPE), etc. Unlike the core subjects, these short courses do not require exams.

The following is a list of Junior Cycle Subject

Applied Technology Business Studies Classics
Engineering English Gaeilge
Geography Graphics History
History Home Economics Jewish Studies
Mathematics Modern Foreign Languages Music
Religious Education Science Visual Art
Wood Technology

Short Courses

CodingCSPEPhysical Education
Digital Media LiteracyA Personal Project: Caring for AnimalsSPHE
Artistic PerformanceCSI: Exploring Forensic Science Chinese Language and Culture
PhilosophyKeeping well, looking good, feeling greatAround the world in eighty days
Food glorious foodEnterprise in Animation 

Senior Cycle

The Senior Cycle is suitable for students aged 15 to 18. It includes a Form 4 (also known as Transition Year) which follows immediately after the Junior Cycle. The Transition year provides students with the opportunity to experience a wide range of elective subjects, work experience, and participation in various extracurricular activities to learn life skills beyond textbooks. After completing the Transition Year, students proceed to a two-year leaving certificate programme, which includes the options such as The Leaving Certificate Established (LCE), The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP), or The Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA). Upon finishing this programme, students can choose to continue their studies or enter employment.

The following is a list of Senior Cycle Subject

AccountingAgricultural ScienceAncient Greek
Applied MathematicsArabicArt
Classical StudiesComputer ScienceConstruction Studies
Design and Communication GraphicsEconomicsEngineering
GeographyGermanHebrew Studies
HistoryHome EconomicsItalian
MusicPhysical Education FrameworkPhysical Education Specification
PhysicsPhysics and ChemistryPolish
Politics and SocietyPortugueseReligious Education
Russian SpanishTechnology


Transition Year

The Transition Year (TY) is a one-year programme that serves as a bridge between Junior Cycle and Senior Cycle. It is specifically designed to facilitate students’ transition from the more dependent learning of the Junior Cycle to the more independent and self-directed learning required in the Senior Cycle. While the TY is available to all secondary-level schools, it is important to note that only approximately 75% of schools offer TY programmes. However, it is a compulsory year for most private boarding schools in Ireland.

Each school designs its own unique Transition Year programme within set guidelines, tailoring it to suit the needs and interests of its students. This flexibility allows schools to incorporate local community interests and resources into the program’s content. By offering a personalized and varied curriculum, the TY aims to provide students with a holistic education that fosters personal growth, encourages exploration of diverse subjects, and develops skills that extend beyond traditional academic learning.

Core subject Layer LC Subject Sampling LayerTY Modules of subjects layerCalendar “Once-off” Layer









* International students who aged 12 or above will be granted an exemption from studying Irish

Business Studies


Politics and Society







Mental Health Matters

Mini Company


Tourism awareness programme


Log on Learn

Young Social Innovators


Work experience

Outdoor pursuits

Social outreach

Field trips

Visiting speakers

Drama/Musical production


*Each school has a different TY programme, the above table is for reference only.

The Transition year (TY) is widely regarded as the ideal opportunity for International students to immerse themselves in the Irish education system. It offers numerous highlights and advantages that can greatly benefit students as they adapt to their new education environment and prepare for their future endeavours. Below are some of the TY highlights and advantages, know more about how TY helps your students to fit in the education system, thrive in their future.

Senior Subject Taster, try before you do

The Senior Subject Taster section is a highlight during Transition Year. The tasters are designed to allow students to explore the content and try out different Leaving Certificate subjects. According to the “Exploring the Student Experience” report, after completing the subject tasters, some students picked up new subjects for the Leaving Certificate that they had not studied for the Junior Certificate. This also helped them make more informed choices of subjects for the Leaving Certificate. In this year, students will continue to study core subjects like English, Irish, Mathematics, and PE. However, the number of study hours and length of modules will be reduced to align with other learning activities during this year.

No State Examination, less study pressure

During the TY year, there is no state examination. Students have the opportunity to explore, learn, and pursue their interests, which aids in self-discovery and understanding their strengths and weaknesses. Assessment will occur continuously throughout the year and may involve school-based evaluations of projects or portfolios, as well as oral, aural, practical, and written activities. The evaluation of activities like work experience or community service will often involve the providers or hosts of those activities. Additionally, certain modules may have their own specific assessment arrangements.

Work Experience placement, shape future career 

TY students will have the opportunity to participate in two to three weeks of work experience, with the arrangements varying between different schools. It is encouraged for students to seek work experience in areas that align with their interests and potential future careers. To find their work experience placement, students can utilize resources provided by their school and the internet. These placements can range from retail, tourism, human resources, art, sports, law, health science, and more. Through their work experience, students will develop skills relevant to the workforce and gain a better understanding of their potential career paths. Additionally, students will also engage in various “hands-on” modules that aim to build important life skills such as cooking, photography, and safe driving. These skills will continue to benefit the students long after they graduate.

Although there are many high-quality secondary schools in Ireland, public schools generally do not accept International students due to the protection of overseas students. Most schools that can accept International students and provide comprehensive education for international students are boarding schools. Although Irish public schools generally do not accept overseas students, if there is a series of approved and guaranteed arrangements for guardians and host families, students can also apply and enrol in some local non-boarding schools. For more details, please approach us for inquiry.

The following table shows the appropriate admission years, Admission requirements and points to note for Irish boarding schools:

Boarding Schools in Ireland

Appropriate Admission yearsAdmission RequirementsPoints to note

Appropriate entry years including Form 1, Form 2, Form 4 (also known as Transition Year).

Some schools also welcome senior students to Form 5 and Form 6.

Current two years school report (English proficiency and Conduct)

Age Consideration (Students must reach the specified age before term starts in September. E.g. aged 12 for form 1 admission)

Online English test and Interview (If applicable)

Some schools may required an English proficiency Test (e.g. Cambridge English Exams)

Admission for Form 1 

Application for form 1 must be made during the designated application window (Usually in October of the year) before admission. Please note that each school has different application windows, and form 1 admission is more demanding than other grades, so parents are advised to consult us two years in advance)

State Exam in Ireland

Leaving Certificate Established (LCE)

The Leaving Certificate Established is a comprehensive two-year programme designed to provide students with a well-rounded education and equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to pursue their desired higher education and career paths. Typically, students take at least five subjects (often seven) for examination, with Irish being a mandatory subject (for International students who are aged 12 or above can be exempted). Subjects are generally studied at either Ordinary or Higher Level, and Foundation Level is an option for Irish and Mathematics. 

Leaving Certificate Established offers a wide range of subjects, with syllabuses available for 36 different areas of study. Each of these belongs to a subject group as shown in the table below. Home Economics and Physics and Chemistry, belonging to two groups. The programme’s flexibility and diverse subject offerings allow students to tailor their studies to their interests and goals, preparing them for success in their future endeavors.

Languages group Irish, English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Greek, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Russian, Classical Studies, Hebrew Studies, Lithuanian, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Portuguese
Science group Applied Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Physics and Chemistry
Business studies group Accounting, Business, Economics
Applied science group Agricultural Science, Construction Studies, Engineering, Home Economics, Physics and Chemistry, Design and Communication Graphics, Technology, Computer Science, Physical Education
Social studies group Art, Geography, History, Home Economics, Music, Politics and Society, Religious Education

The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP)

The LCVP(The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme) shares similarities with the Leaving Certificate Established programme, but with an additional emphasis on vocational content and technical subjects. Students enrolled in the LCVP undertake five Leaving Certificate subjects, including two vocational subjects. In addition to these subjects, they also study a modern European Language and three link modules focusing on Enterprise Education, Preparation for Work, and Work Experience.

The Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA)

The LCA (Leaving Certificate Applied) is a two-year programme designed for students who prefer a practical and vocational-oriented curriculum. While certification in the LCA does not guarantee direct entry into third-level courses, students who successfully complete the programme are well-equipped to pursue a range of Post Leaving Certificate courses.