Reforms to Support Students' Transition from Post-Primary to Higher Education Addressed at a Major Conference

On June 24th a major conference was held in NUI Maynooth on “Supporting a better transition from second-level into higher education”. The conference, organised by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) in partnership with the IUA focused on three themes: How to address problematic predictability in the Leaving Certificate, how to reduce the number of grading bands in the Leaving Certificate and how to introduce broader entry routes into higher education for school leavers.

The conference was attended by a wide group of experts and stakeholders and research on how to tackle the points system and address predictability in exams was presented.

In his opening address, Minister Quinn acknowledged stakeholders’ concerns about the need for reforms in these three areas: “There is widespread agreement in this room and beyond that our young peoples’ potential and experience of education is being threatened by the nature of a high-stakes Leaving Certificate examination that is also used to determine entry into higher education.”

IUA has been working in partnership with the Department of Education and Skills and other relevant bodies, including the State Exams Commission, and Institutes of Technology Ireland to address the complex set of issues involved.

While significant progress on the transition from second level to higher education has been made, further work is required to complete this process by the end of this year. The changes agreed will be implemented on a phased basis for fifth year students who commence the Leaving Certificate cycle in 2014.

The areas identified for further work include the exploration of issues such as the number of grades in the Leaving Certificate, the level of CAO points to be awarded to each Leaving Certificate Grade and the use of additional tools to be used in conjunction with Leaving Certificate points to allocate places in higher education

Minister Quinn said the high quality discussion amongst experts and stakeholders attending the conference will inform this process. He said: “I am very happy with progress to date and am confident that implementation of these reforms will be of enormous benefit to students in the future. It is important that we are informed through analysis and evidence of the potential impacts of reform in such a sensitive area. The results of the research underway and the important contribution made at this conference will be drawn together by the end of this year when we should be able to see a clear path forward for implementing the changes necessary at second level and in higher education” he said.

Click here for videos of the conference presentations –