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Mainstream assessment systems - Ireland

Responsibility of the Minister

The curriculum for Ireland’s primary and post-primary schools is determined by the Minister for Education and Science, advised by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). The curriculum sets out not only what is to be taught, but how, and how learning in any particular subject area is to be assessed. 

Bodies established by the Minister as a support to assessment and provision

Examinations System

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) was established in March 2003 by order of the Minister for Education and Science, under the terms of the Education Act 1998 (

The SEC is a non-departmental public body under the aegis of the Department of Education and Science. It is responsible for the development, assessment, accreditation and certification of the second-level examinations of the Irish state: the Junior Certificate (age 15 years approximately) and the Leaving Certificate (age 18 years approximately). The SEC is operationally independent of the Department although working within the parameters of the curriculum and assessment procedures developed by the NCCA.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA)

The NCCA has been in existence on a non-statutory basis since 1987 but, under the terms of Section VII of the Education Act 1998, it was established as a statutory agency in June 2001. The role of the NCCA is to lead developments in curriculum and assessment and to provide support for the implementation of change. Its largest projects have included the development of a revised version of the Primary School Curriculum, the curriculum for the Junior Certificate (post-primary) and the revision of a number of Leaving Certificate subjects. Each curricular change has been introduced on a phased basis, supported by a programme of teacher training. Included in each of these developments has been a review of assessment procedures. The NCCA has introduced some non-traditional modes of assessment at second level by including tasks and coursework in the examination of revised curricula. 

The NCCA has produced curricular Guidelines for Teachers of Students with General Learning Disabilities ( The guidelines, issued initially in draft form for consultation, are designed to provide support to teachers in addressing the needs of students with severe and profound, moderate and mild general learning disabilities at primary level and at post-primary junior cycle level. They provide access, as appropriate, to mainstream curricula and support a broad and balanced range of learning experiences with particular emphasis on the learning needs of each student.



  • NCCA – National Council for Curriculum and Assessment
  • SEC – State Examinations Commission
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