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What subjects do I have to take in secondary school in Ireland?

In Ireland the Minister for Education and Skills sets the curriculum for primary and secondary schools


Written by Children's Rights Alliance and posted in life


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This factsheet is an extract from the publication Know Your Rights: The Rights of Children and Young People published by the Children's Rights Alliance. It is reproduced here with their kind permission. Know Your Rights is a public information project designed to inform everyone, in plain language, of the rights and entitlements children have in Ireland and where to go when they are not respected.

The Minister for Education and Skills sets the curriculum (the subjects to be taught) in Irish secondary schools. They take into account the advice of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. Your school and teachers decide what you will learn from that curriculum every day at school. 

Do I have a right to choose my own subjects at school?

In secondary school you are able to choose certain subjects within the curriculum. However, you must study English, Mathematics and Irish. You can get an exemption from studying Irish in certain circumstances. For more information go to the Curriculum Online website.

Do I have to study religion at school?

You do not have to study religion in school, but you can only not study it if your parent or guardian says you do not have to. If you are over the age of 18 you can decide for yourself. If you do not share the religion of your school, or do not have a religion, you do not have to attend religious classes or events. Your parent or guardian can ask that you do not take part in this class and the school must agree to this.

If you belong to a different religion from that of your school, the school does not have to provide you with instruction (classes) in your own religion.

For those who do not want religious teaching in school, Community Post Primary Schools and Education and Training Board (ETB) post primary schools must offer an alternative subject or subjects. The school must let parents know that such alternative tuition is available. You and your parents must be asked to choose between religious instruction and the alternative subject or subjects offered by your school.

Do I have to do homework?

Yes. Each school sets its own rules and policies for homework and as a pupil you must follow the rules and policies of your school. If you are having difficulty with your homework you should speak to a teacher as they may be able to provide you with extra support. 

Do I have to do tests and exams?

You have to follow school rules or policy and this may include sitting tests and exams. The law does not say that you must sit the Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate exams. However, the Leaving Certificate is the most common way into third-level education (universities and third-level colleges).

There are also other education options like:

If you are home-schooled you do not have to take the formal exams like the Junior or Leaving Certificate, but you can ask your parent or guardian to arrange for you to do so. You can get more information on the website of the State Examination Commission.

Can I appeal results of my Junior or Leaving Certificate exams if I think they are unfair?

Yes. To appeal a result in a Junior Certificate subject, talk to your school who will apply to the State Examinations Commission for you. To appeal a result in a Leaving Certificate subject you must:

  •  Fill in an appeal form which you can get from your school
  • Send the form to the State Examinations Commission.

For both exams there is a fee for each subject you wish to appeal.

Visit our Education section to lean more about your options both during and after school. 

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Published June 17th2020
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