Step-by-step guide to qualifications ladder
Last week we focused on the National Framework of Qualifications, in particular Level 8 and Level 7 on the framework. Leaving Cert students may also apply for courses at Level 6 and Level 5, and use these to climb higher.
Level 6 are also known as higher certificates and courses are generally two years in duration. This level can be accessed both by making a CAO application if you wish to study in an institute of technology or private colleges, and by applying to certain courses in further education colleges.
If students attend a CAO institution, they will proceed directly into a Level 6 course. Leaving Cert students need to achieve the minimum entry requirements - any essential subjects and grades that may be required - and then compete with other applicants on CAO points. The minimum entry requirements for Level 6 are five ordinary level grades at D3 or above. CAO points in 2015 ranged between AQA (all qualified applicants) to about 300.
However, if you enter a further education college - for which points are not needed - you will study at Level 5 for year one and Level 6 for year two.
Level 5 courses are generally available at further education colleges and are often referred to as Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses. These are normally one year in duration and are available in a wide range of disciplines, both academic and practical. Students are mostly required to have five Leaving Cert passes and foundation, ordinary, and higher levels will be considered. Students are usually invited for interview and, as these colleges are not part of the CAO, no points are required.
So what does all this mean for students? Well, firstly, that they may make applications for a wide variety of courses with a wide range of entry requirements. This means there are opportunities for further study for every student after Leaving Cert. And, because the system can be considered a type of ladder, it means that, irrespecitve of the step at which a student enters, it is possible to climb.
Students may apply for up to 10 Level 8 courses through the CAO and an additional 10 courses at levels 7 and 6. In conjunction with their CAO application, students may apply for Level 5 by applying directly to further education colleges. If students use all of these options fully, there is no reason why they should not have a course to move on to after Leaving Cert.
It is often the students who do not fully investigate their options at levels 5, 6 and 7 who receive no offer in August. Offers can only be made if students have applied for the course, so it is important to utilise options fully in case things do not go as expected in August.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin