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Introduction

Excellent and innovative education and training facilitates individuals, through learning, to achieve their full potential and contribute to Ireland’s social, economic and cultural development.

The education and training system in Ireland is made up of early years education, primary and post-primary education, further education and training, and higher education, including supports for research and international education.

State-funded education is available at all levels, unless you choose to send your child to a private institution.

Education is compulsory for children in Ireland from the ages of six to sixteen or until students have completed three years of post-primary education. Most children attend state-funded schools although some are educated at home or in non-recognised schools, (example: a private primary school). Home schooling or attendance at non-recognised schools

Early Childhood and Pre-school

The compulsory age to begin education in Ireland is 6 and all forms of pre-primary education are optional.

In general, Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is delivered outside the formal education system, by a range of private, community and voluntary interests, which can be described as crèches, nurseries, pre-schools, naíonraí (Irish language pre-schools), playgroups and day-care services.

Aistear is the early childhood curriculum framework for all children from birth to six years in Ireland. Aistear can be used in the range of early childhood settings including children's own homes, childminding settings, full and part-time daycare settings, sessional services and infant classes in primary schools. The Framework uses four interconnected themes to describe the content of children's learning and development: Well-being, Identity and Belonging, Communicating, and Exploring and Thinking.

Primary Education

Although children are not obliged to begin education until the age of six, almost all 5-year-old children are at school. Primary education consists of an eight year cycle: junior infants, senior infants, and first to sixth classes. In Ireland all children are entitled to free primary education.

All primary schools in Ireland have a patron , which sets the ethos for the school. Most schools have a board of management appointed by the patron to manage the school. The schools boards of management usually includes representatives of parents, teachers, trustees or patron, the principal and the community.

Children normally attend their local school. Find schools in your area . You can send your child to the primary school of your choice, as long as there is a place for them. While most schools can enrol all the children who apply, there is no guarantee of a place in the local school.

Read more: Missing link item!

Schools open from Monday to Friday. Classes usually start between 9am and 9.30am. A primary school day lasts 5 hours and 40 minutes. The school day may be shorter for children in infant classes. Read more School Holidays

The primary curriculum aims to provide a broad learning experience and encourages a rich variety of approaches to teaching and learning that cater for the different needs of individual children. The primary curriculum is designed to nurture the child in all dimensions of his or her life—spiritual, moral, cognitive, emotional, imaginative, aesthetic, social and physical.

Standardised tests are used to measure a child’s reading and mathematical achievement, and to determine children’s progress in those areas. Information from the tests is important given the vital role of literacy and numeracy in enabling children to access the full curriculum.

All primary schools are required by the Department of Education and Skills to administer standardised tests during the period May/June for all students in 2nd, 4th and 6th classes.

See www.ncca.ie for more information on the primary curriculum and standardised testing.

Information for schools in relation to standarised testing returns Standardised Testing in Primary Schools.

Post-Primary Education

You can send your child to the post-primary school of your choice, as long as there is a place for them. Find schools in your area . While most schools can enrol all the children who apply, there is no guarantee of a place in the local school. Read more: Missing link item!

Schools open from Monday to Friday. Classes usually start between 9am and 9.30am. The minimum hours of instruction per day is 6 and the minimum hours of instruction per week is 28. Read more School Holidays

Post-primary education consists of a three-year junior cycle, followed by a two or three year senior cycle, depending on whether the optional transition year is taken.

The junior-cycle caters for students in the 12 to 15 year old age group. The Framework for Junior Cycle 2015 , provides the basis for post-primary schools to plan quality, inclusive and relevant education programmes with improved learning experiences for all students, including those with special educational needs. The Junior Certificate examination is held at the end of the junior cycle in post-primary schools. Students normally sit for the examinations after 3 years of post-primary education.

The State Examinations Commission is responsible for the development, assessment, accreditation and certification of the junior certificate examinations.

The senior-cycle caters for students in the 15 to 18 year age group. It includes an optional transition year (TY) which follows immediately after the Junior Cycle. TY provides an opportunity for students to experience a wide range of educational inputs, including work experience, over the course of a year that is free from formal examinations.

During the final two years of senior cycle students take one of three programmes, each leading to a state examination:

The Leaving Certificate

The traditional Leaving Certificate Established is a two-year programme that aims to provide learners with a broad, balanced education while also offering some specialisation towards a particular career option. Subjects are assessed by an examination paper and by additional assessment methods including oral and aural examinations, practical examinations and assessment of practical coursework at the end of the two-year programme of study. Performance in the examination can be used for purposes of selection into employment, and into further and higher education. Read more

The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme

This two-year programme combines the academic strengths of the Leaving Certificate with a dynamic focus on self-directed learning, enterprise, work and the community. Read more

The Leaving Certificate Applied Programme

The Leaving Certificate Applied is a two-year Leaving Certificate, available to students who wish to follow a practical or vocationally orientated programme. The Leaving Certificate Applied is made up of a range of courses that are structured round three elements: Vocational Preparation, Vocational Education and General Education. Read more

The State Examinations Commission is responsible for the development, assessment, accreditation and certification of the leaving certificate examinations.

Further Education and Training

Further education (FE) includes any study after post-primary education that is not part of higher education (that is, not taken as part of an undergraduate or graduate degree).

Among the options available are adult literacy courses, apprenticeships, Back to Education Initiative (BTEI), Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses, Vocation Training and Opportunities Scheme (VTOS), and Youthreach.

SOLAS is the State Organisation with responsibility for funding, planning and co-ordinating Further Education and Training (FET) in Ireland.

Qualifax is Ireland’s National Learners’ Database. This is a "one-stop shop" for learners, providing information on Further and Higher Education and Training courses, including entry requirements for courses.

The main provider of further and adult education and training are the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) .

Read more

Higher Education

Many young people go on to higher education after they have obtained their Leaving Certificate. Third-level colleges also reserve a small number of places specifically for mature students (students over 23 years of age) who want to participate in full-time day programmes. Other options available include part-time courses, modular programmes and distance learning.

Higher education in Ireland is provided mainly by universities, institutes of technology and colleges of education. In addition, a number of other third level institutions provide specialist education in such fields as art and design, medicine, business studies, rural development, theology, music and law. See list of providers of higher education List of Universities and Institutes of Technology in Ireland.

Applications for entry to undergraduate courses in universities, colleges of education, institutes of technology and some other institutes of higher education, are processed by the Central Applications Office (CAO) . Offers of places on higher education courses are decided largely by Leaving Certificate results but some institutions offer outreach programmes.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) is the statutory planning and development body for higher education and research in Ireland. The HEA has wide advisory powers throughout the whole of the third-level education sector. In addition it is the funding authority for the universities, institutes of technology and other designated higher education institutions.

Related links:

Inclusive Education

Inclusive education is a fundamental principle of our education and training system – a system that welcomes and meaningfully engages all learners, including those with special educational needs and learners impacted by disadvantage.

All learners should have the opportunity to reach their potential, and the government is committed to helping them do so.

Read more

Quality Assurance

The standard and quality of education provision in the Irish education system are assured by a number of elements, including inspections in schools and centres for education.

Inspections are carried out to improve the quality of learning and teaching that children and young people experience in Irish schools, centres for education and other settings, and to support the development of the Irish education system.

The Department of Education and Skills Inspectorate do this through providing high quality evaluation, analysis, support and advice in relation to education provision mainly at early years, primary and post-primary levels.

Inspectors also provide advice on a range of education issues to school communities, policy makers in the Department and to the wider education system.

Inspectorate Publications - Evaluation Reports & Guidelines

International

The Department of Education and Skills works with international partners, including the European Union, Council of Europe, OECD and UNESCO, to enhance international policy co-operation in education and training.

Read more

Publications (215)


Government confirms continued funding for Schools Meals Programme

26 March 2020; Department of Education and Skills; Press release;

Early-years Education Inspections

25 March 2020; Department of Education and Skills; Publication;