How the Irish school system works

Ireland has one of the best education systems in the world and has an internationally renowned reputation for academic quality. Education in Ireland is compulsory from ages 6 to 16 or until students have completed three years of Second Level (Post-Primary) Education. First level students typically start at aged 4 years and finish at aged 12, whilst second level students finish at aged 18 years. Schools are open for approximately nine months between September and June.

  • Irish primary students are typically aged 4 years – 12 years.
  • Post Primary level students finish school at aged 18 years.
  • 1st, 2nd & 3rd years are called the Junior Cycle.
  • 4th Year (Transition Year) 5th & 6th Year are called the Senior Cycle.
  • Schools are open for approximately nine months between September and June.
  • There are three school semesters (terms) in the academic year: Term 1 – September to December; Term 2 – January to March (Easter); Term 3 – April to June.

Early application is essential to ensure a place in your school of choice.

Junior Cycle 1st Year • 2nd Year • 3rd Year

The junior cycle covers the first three years of secondary school. Children begin their second level education around the age of 12 or 13. The Junior Cycle examination is held at the end of the Junior Cycle in post-primary schools and students normally sit the exam at the age of 15 or 16.

Senior Cycle 4th Year • 5th Year • 6th Year

The Senior Cycle caters for students in the 15 to 18 year age group. It inlcludes Transition year, which follows immediately after the Junior Cycle.

Transition Year (TY) or 4th Year is a one-year programme between Junior Cycle and Senior Cycle. It is designed to act as a bridge between the two by facilitating the smooth transaition from the more dependent learning of the Junior Cycle to the more independent self-directed learning required for the Senior Cycle.

5th & 6th Year follows Transition year and aims to provide learners with a broad, balanced education while also offering some specialisation towards a particular career option.

The Leaving Certificate Examination is held at the end of the Senior Cycle, 6th year and its internationally recognised for all degree programmes at Iris, UK, US and European universities. Entry to third level education is closely linked to the results achieved by students at this examination.

Living and studying Ireland was an unforgettable experience for me.. I never had trouble in communicating with my host parents which made my stay even better. Overall, I enjoyed my stay with this family very much! I miss them a lot. As of today, I am very grateful that they were my parents! I know that I am always welcomed in their house. I will never forget about everything that they gave me and will always remember those days!

Vlad, Russia – Sutton Park School

Frequently asked questions

At IELA we believe you should live as close as possible to your chosen school and enjoy an immersion within the local community. All our host families are located as close as possible to your chosen school, generally within walking distance or a short bus ride away (10 – 15 minutes). Students can travel by bus, train or tram.
IELA will arrange transcript documentation to enable a smooth transition into school in their country of origin.
Validation for Spanish Students – Spanish students will receive a validation for their time spent at an Irish School

An entrance exam is not required. The school of choice require two recent school reports and may wish to interview the student via Skype/Zoom prior to school application being processed.

On confirmation of enrolment, we request an Expenses Fund of which allows us to purchase the uniform, books and extra-curricular activities from this Fund (with the exception of some private high school uniform costs). Any unused funds monies are returned to the family after the student’s departure, with balancing statement. If funds become low during the academic year a supplement will be requested.

Please be assured that no major payments will be made without parental permission. Actual amount can vary depending on the duration of stay and costs at each individual school.

IELA will purchase the uniform and books for each high school student before arrival. Simply include the student’s measurements with our application form (Height, Chest, Waist and Inside leg) and IELA will do the rest! The school uniform and text-book costs will be paid from the Students’ Expenses Fund Account.

It is mandatory for all students attending IELA programmes to purchase full medical & travel insurance before commencing their programme. EU students must also bring their European Health Insurance Card. Travel insurance is available to purchase through IELA.

We recommend €30 per week. Students must have access to their own personal funds. Parents should arrange a debit card for their child in which they can deposit funds on a weekly or monthly basis. Cash is not available from IELA for students under any circumstances.

There are no pre-arranged activities organised for students during school holidays however there are local camps/workshops run by external providers. IELA are happy to advise in consultation with the student and the families closer to the time. Any additional costs for third party camps/workshops can be paid from the Student Expenses Fund. Please note that our High School Programme includes accommodation during half-term holidays’ but it does not include accommodation during Easter and Christmas holidays. If a student would like to stay during Christmas and Easter periods, please let us know so we can discuss different options and costs involved.

Host family profiles will be shared a few weeks in advance of a students’ arrival. In our experience, to avoid disappointment to our students overseas, sharing family information earlier is not recommended as family life is constantly evolving and sometimes situations arise which force them to postpone their hosting plans.

We are with our students every step of the way on their High School journey, caring, nurturing, supporting and creating solutions to any issue, however small. Our team have the experience to respond and react appropriately whatever the situation.

“At IELA we look after your child and offer the same level of support that we would expect for our own family”.
Emer, Director of IELA.