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Assessment in inclusive classrooms - Ireland

Assessment of students with special educational needs within the national curriculum and assessment framework

The DES has, as one of its primary aims, the achievement of inclusiveness by meeting the needs of the increasing diversity of pupils now to be found in schools. It is intended that, as far as possible, students who are educationally disadvantaged, whether through socio-economic circumstances or through disability, will have access to substantially the same curricula and final certification as other students. 

Reasonable Accommodations in Certificate Examinations (RACE)  

The State Examinations Commission  (SEC) provides the RACE scheme whereby candidates with permanent or long-term conditions, including visual and hearing difficulties, or specific learning difficulties, which they believe will significantly impair their performance in state examinations, may apply to the SEC for a reasonable accommodation(s) to be made to facilitate them taking the examinations.

The reasonable accommodations are intended to:

  • remove, as far as possible, the impact of the disability on the candidate's performance and thus enable the candidate to demonstrate his or her level of attainment and
  • ensure that, whilst giving candidates every opportunity to demonstrate their levels of attainment, the special arrangements will not give a candidate an unfair advantage over other candidates in the same examination.

Applications for reasonable accommodations must be supported by assessment evidence from experts in the relevant disabilities and validation of the assessment evidence is undertaken by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) on behalf of the SEC. 

Alternative Programmes at Second Level

In order to promote inclusiveness, the NCCA has developed programmes at second level, appropriate to certain students with educational disadvantage, such as the Junior Certificate Schools Programme (JCSP) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA). 

Junior Certificate Schools Programme (JCSP)

This programme, introduced in 1996, is particularly aimed at junior cycle (lower second-level) students who are at risk of early school leaving. It is not an alternative to the Junior Certificate programme. Rather, it is a curricular framework that assists schools and teachers to make the Junior Certificate examination more accessible to learners who might otherwise leave school without formal qualifications. Currently the JCSP is operating in 150 schools across the country. Students take the Junior Certificate examination in English and mathematics and in other examination subjects that they have selected. They receive an additional award based on a student profile and validated by the DES. The assessment procedure for the JCSP enables learners to collect credits as they complete their coursework. It is possible for a student to collect a total of 200 credits, of which 62 are for completion of courses, 70 for student tasks and 68 for examinations. Students who acquire more than 120 credits are awarded the Junior Certificate, while those who accumulate fewer than 120 credits receive a Record of Experience. 

The Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA)

It was introduced in 1995, and it is a self-contained Leaving Certificate programme.  It is pre-vocational by nature and is designed for those students who do not wish to proceed directly to Further or Higher Education or for those whose needs, aptitudes and learning styles are not fully catered for by the other two Leaving Certificate programmes. Participants in the Leaving Certificate Applied are mainly engaged in work and study of an active, practical and student-centred nature. The work of LCA students is continuously assessed. The programme is divided into half-year blocks called ‘sessions’, of which there are four over the two year programme. Students are assessed on their work in January and May of each year under three headings:

  • Satisfactory Completion of Modules
  • Performance of Student Tasks. Student Tasks are assessed by external examiners appointed by the SEC. These tasks may be in a variety of formats – written, audio, video, artefact etc.
  • Performance in the Terminal Examinations. The written examinations are generally held in the same period as the other Leaving Certificate examinations.

Students who successfully complete the programme receive a Leaving Certificate from the SEC. Candidates who acquire less than 120 credits receive a Record of Experience. This also applies to students who leave school before the end of the programme.

Assessment in Places other than Recognised Schools 

The Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 (, provides a framework for promoting regular school attendance and for tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. Implementation of the Act is the responsibility of the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB), which was launched in December 2003 and has responsibility for ensuring that every child receives an education.

As the Irish Constitution (article 42) acknowledges the role of a parent / guardian as the primary educator of the child and that a parent / guardian may educate a child in the home, the NEWB has, as part of its remit, the registration of children who receive their education at home. This requirement exists so that, while parents are supported in their constitutional rights, the child's right to a minimum education is also safeguarded. The NEWB arranges for ongoing assessment of the education that is provided to registered children. (Guidelines on the Assessment of Education in Places other than Recognised Schools – September 2003 –DES). Parents who are educating their children at home may also enter their children as external candidates for certificate examinations organised by the SEC. 

Assessment of Detained Children

The Children Act 2001 ( defines the circumstances and procedures under which penalties, including detention, may be incurred by young offenders. The principles underlying these procedures are laid out in Section 96 of the Act. An important principle is that “a period of detention should be imposed only as a measure of last resort.” This Section also states that it is desirable wherever possible to “allow the education, training or employment of the child to proceed without interruption.” A small number of children, (young offenders, children on remand or children who are considered to be at risk of harming themselves or others) may be detained in Children Detention Schools, High Support Units or Special Care Units. The NCCA has developed a draft curriculum framework for use in these settings. The framework is designed to assist schools and special units with curriculum development and programme planning. It is expected that detained children will follow the national curriculum, with some modifications, and will enter for the national Certificate examinations.



  • DES – Department of Education and Science
  • JCSP – Junior Certificate Schools Programme
  • LCA – Leaving Certificate Applied
  • NEWB – National Educational Welfare Board
  • RACE – Reasonable Accommodations in Certificate Examinations
  • SEC – State Examinations Commission
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