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Saturday 24 August 2019

Irish could be dropped as a compulsory subject

School stock picture
School stock picture
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Leaving Cert students of the future may no longer do Transition Year as a stand-alone programme but, instead, have elements of it spread across senior cycle.

But should senior cycle extend over two years or three? That is another question raised in a major review of the Leaving Cert, which is now entering its final phase.

And there are mixed views on whether Irish should continue to be a compulsory subject.

These are among the talking points to emerge in the review being carried out by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).

But while there is much to tease out yet, a strong message from the NCCA is that the final years of schooling are "too rigid".

It has been consulting students, teachers, parents and other education stakeholders for the past year and has published a series of documents as a basis for a final round of consultations. It is inviting the views of individuals and organisations and will hold focus group meetings in the autumn.

Other ideas in the mix include offering a wider choice of subjects, including short courses alongside full subjects, and greater flexibility, generally, to meet individual needs and to prepare students for the range of opportunities that await them after school, and not only CAO points and college entry.

Discussions have also touched on what subjects should be compulsory with English, maths and lifeskills most frequently suggested.

Mixed views were expressed on retaining Irish as a compulsory subject.

Demand for less "ring-fencing" of the various senior cycle programmes - the traditional Leaving Cert, the Leaving Cert Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the alternative, Leaving Cert Applied (LCA), has also emerged.

One source of frustration is that pupils doing the LCVP module are restricted in their other subject choices, while LCA students can only do foundation level maths.

In its interim report, the NCCA says a wider range of learning pathways is required to meet the needs of all students and elements of Transition Year (TY), LCA and LCVP would have much to contribute to their development.

What is abundantly clear from the report is that there will be no "big-bang" approach to reform.

After the final round of consultations, the advice to Education Minister Joe McHugh will recommend the pace of change take account of the capacity of schools to implement meaningful change.

The NCCA is aware of the challenges associated with the reforms being rolled out at Junior Cycle. "In this context it would appear that growth and development rather than radical overhaul of senior cycle - evolution not revolution - is called for," the NCCA states.

Irish Independent

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