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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 12°C
Leah Farrell via

Explainer: What changes are being made to the Leaving Certificate?

Major reforms to the Leaving Cert are to be brought in beginning in 2023.

IT WAS ANNOUNCED earlier today that major reforms to the Leaving Certificate are to be brought in beginning in September 2023. 

Education Minister Norma Foley announced that students entering Senior Cycle will now sit some exams in their fifth year. 

According to the Department of Education, there will be changes to the final assessment procedure that will introduce ‘teacher-based’ assessment components while Leaving Cert exams will be given less weight than they currently have.

So, what exactly are the main changes being made? 

Under the plans announced today, traditional Leaving Cert exams will be worth just 60% of students’ final results. 

The remaining 40% will be made up of ‘teacher-based’ assessments. 

The ‘teacher-based’ assessments are to be carried out by a student’s teacher. However, they will be moderated by the State Examinations Commission to avoid grade inflation.

Starting in September 2023, two exams – English Paper 1 and Irish Paper 1 – will be sat at the end of fifth year. 

“The idea here is that students will no longer have to face 100% of their of their exam on one single day in the month of June,” Foley told reporters this afternoon. 

All future oral exams and music practicals will now take place on the first week of Easter break of 6th year.

Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students will have improved access to Mathematics and Modern Foreign Languages from September 2022. 

Will there be any new subjects added to the Leaving Cert and will there be changes to current subjects? 


New curricula for subjects across the Senior Cycle are set to be updated.

The first updated subjects are set to be introduced in 2024, with students who enter fifth year studying the updated curriculum.

The first subjects set to be updated are the optional subjects Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Business.

Two new subjects will also be introduced from 2024 – Drama, Film and Theatre Studies and Climate Action and Sustainable Development.

Foley has asked that all subjects be updated with assessment components alongside the traditional Leaving Cert exams.

Why is the Leaving Cert being reformed? 

Speaking today, Foley said there is an “appetite” for change to the Leaving Cert cycle, which was forced to change due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

She added that the way students are assessed needed to change and that work needed to be done to reduce stress for students.

“It will reduce the pressure on students that comes from final assessments based primarily on examinations. We will move to a model that uses other forms of assessment, over a less concentrated time period, in line with international best practice.”

However, Foley did say that examinations “have their strengths” and that they are trusted by students, teachers, parents and the wider public.

“They enable us to access a considerable range of student learning in a manageable way that it’s trusted by students, teachers, parents, and the general public,” Foley said.

“At the same time, we know that examinations are not capable of measuring all the competencies that we want young people to develop.”

Have any other changes been announced today? 

It was also announced today that there will also be a change to the Transition Year format, encouraging greater access to TY for all students.

How have people reacted to the news of the reform?

The announcement of the Leaving Cert reform has broadly been welcomed today. 

Sinn Féin’s Education Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said that the proposed changes were “long overdue”.

“We have all known for a long time that the Leaving Cert is in dire need of reform. It is not suited to the 21st century. It causes immense and disproportionate stress and anxiety,” said Ó Laoghaire.

However, he did call for greater clarity on the reforms that would be brought in, saying that some of the proposals were vague, in particular around the assessments outside of the traditional suite of exams.

Labour’s Education Spokesperson, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin welcomed the new subjects being developed but said that the proposals needed to be thoroughly examined and called for an audit of the capacity secondary schools to deliver these changes.

“While it’s a welcome move to see new subjects considered on the topic of climate change and the arts, this must go hand in hand of the capacity of every school to deliver these subjects,” Ó Ríordáin said.

“I am calling for an equality audit of secondary level schools to ensure that they can provide all subjects to the same level.”

Further information on the plans for the Leaving Certificate reform are available on the Government’s website here

 Includes reporting by Tadgh McNally 

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