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Students leave school unprepared for life, says Harris

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Students are leaving school without the sex education, digital skills, financial literacy and climate knowledge they need, Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris will tell the Oireachtas Education Committee today.

Mr Harris will outline shortcomings he perceives in senior cycle at the latest of a series of committee discussions on Leaving Cert reform.

The hearings come against the backdrop of a soon-to-be-published report from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment outlining options for a revamp of senior cycle, both in terms of curriculum and assessment.

Mr Harris believes the Covid pandemic has created “the chance to change, reform, to do better”.

While much of the focus of the debate to date has been on potential changes to assessment, the minister will say the reform process must consider the programme, subjects, skills and objectives in the round, and not just the terminal exam.

The minister will say debate also must be about what happens after the exam.

He will raise questions as to whether senior cycle prepares all students equally well for pursuing their future paths, be they academic or vocational, and whether the Leaving Cert captures a person’s capabilities.

One of the minister’s priorities is to enhance the visibility of further education and training (FET) and apprenticeships options for school-leavers and, to that end, he will tell the committee about the new Central Applications Office (CAO) website being launched this week.

For the first time, the website will act as a gateway to non-CAO options such as post-Leaving Cert (PLC) courses and apprenticeships.

The CAO FET portal will provide a link to about 500 popular PLC courses offered by education and training boards (ETBs) as well as a link to information about the expanding number of apprenticeship opportunities.

Students will be able apply for PLCs via the portal, and the relevant ETB will follow up with them about various requirements and make an offer to suitable candidates. The offer will be confirmed and applicants issued with details of the college induction process on the same day as CAO Round 1 offers.

This is a first step, and Mr Harris will tell the committee that it is his intention that, in the coming years, applications for FET will be integrated fully into the CAO.


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