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What schools are best suited to someone moving to Ireland from the UK?

The Irish educational system is designed to give your child a strong foundation for life-long learning, with primary education beginning at age 6 and going through the completion of three years of post-primary studies (or until they reach 16). The goal is that each student will be provided with an enriching environment in which their minds can grow.

Primary Education

Every child's educational journey begins at different times - with some children starting primary school as early as 5 years of age, while others may wait until 6 to take the first step. In Ireland, lessons are tailored around a child-centred curriculum and almost all pupils study Irish in their classes – though there is an option for exemption from this subject if required.

For people moving to Ireland from the UK, in most cases, primary education in Ireland is free although there are some private primary schools in the major cities. Expect to pay between €5,000 and €10,000 if you choose a private primary school. 

There are also a growing number of Gaelscoileanna schools that teach through Irish. Gaelscoileanna are state funded. They often have the word Gaelscoil in their title.

Secondary Education

Post-primary education has 2 stages:

  • Junior Cycle – age 12 to 15 (approximately)
  • Students generally start the Junior Cycle at the age of 12 and take the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) examination at the end of 3 years.
  • Senior Cycle - age 16 to 18 (approximately)
  • Children can have a 2 or 3-year Senior Cycle. The Senior Cycle is 3 years if you opt to include Transition Year.

    The Transition year allows students to experience a wide range of educational instruction and work experience.

    During their final 2 years in the Senior Cycle, students take one of 3 programs, each leading to a State examination:

      • Established Leaving Certificate
      • Leaving Certificate Vocational Programm
      • Leaving Certificate Applied

The Established  Leaving Certificate is a two-year programme that aims to provide learners with a broad, balanced education while also offering some specialisation towards a particular career option.

Private Secondary Schools in Ireland

There is over 50 fee-paying secondary schools in Ireland with over 25,000 students enrolled. For day schools, fees tend to average between €4,000 and €7,000 a year while boarding schools charge anything up to €25,000 a year in Ireland. 

New research has shown that attending an expensive private school is not a guaranteed route to gaining entry into the most competitive and desirable university courses. UCD School of Psychology's study revealed that, even though 7% of second-level students attend fee-charging schools, this doesn't significantly boost their chances in comparison with those from publicly funded educational establishments when it comes to achieving high Leaving Cert grades or getting on the best degree programmes.

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