The post-primary or second-level sector of education caters for students aged 12 to 18 years. Attendance at school is compulsory for students aged under 16. Most children start in post-primary school at the age of 12 or 13. They must be at least 12 years of age on 1 January in the year they start second-level education in order to be registered in a post-primary school. There are several different types of post-primary school.
In most rural and provincial areas, there is generally one school that is attended by all the students in that area. However, some parents and students, especially in large population centres, may have a choice of schools. The factors to consider when choosing a school include:
You can send your child to the post-primary school of your choice, provided there is a place available. Where there is an accommodation problem, the school must give priority on the basis of its enrolment policy. This is drawn up by the board of management and should be available to you on request. While most post-primary schools are in a position to enrol all children who apply, there is no automatic guarantee of a place in the school you choose.
In order to enrol your child, you should first check the list of post-primary schools in your area. Then, you should contact the school of your choice to see if there is a place available. The school of your choice may place your child on a waiting list or you may need to contact other schools to find a place.
The Department of Education and Skills has launched a consultation on the options for the regulation of school enrolment.
The vast majority of post-primary schools do not charge fees. However, students must pay for books and examination fees. In addition, there are other costs, such as school uniform. There are schemes to help low-income families meet the costs of schooling. The Department of Education and Skills has published a circular on the weight of schoolbags.
Second-level education consists of a three-year Junior Cycle, followed by a two-year or three-year Senior Cycle. The Junior Certificate Programme examination is taken at the end of the Junior Cycle. In the Senior Cycle, there is an optional one-year Transition Year programme followed by a choice of three Leaving Certificate programmes. Each of these 3 Leaving Certificate programmes - the Established Leaving Certificate, the Leaving Certificate Applied and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme - is a two-year programme. Certain students are provided with an exemption from Irish. In certain specific circumstances students may be allowed to repeat a year, as described in circular M2/95 Repeating a Year at Post-Primary Level.
Other aspects of post-primary education include:
• Education for students with special educational needs
• Equipment grants for students with disabilities
• Examination arrangements for students with disabilities
• The post-primary school transport scheme
• Special educational arrangements for Travellers
• Measures to address educational disadvantage
• Resources for non-English speakers.
• Your options when leaving school
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.