Education and Studying in Ireland

For expats moving to Ireland with children will want to choose the best school for their child to be enrolled in. The good part is that the standard of education is high and when it comes to the language, English and Irish are the official language of the country with the main language in schools being English. Foreign children do not need to learn in Gaelic.

Children must attend school from the age of six until sixteen and expat children are entitled to attend an Irish school.

There are different types of schools available in Ireland with pre-school, public, private schools, Religious schools (these are usually local Irish schools) and other schools which will teach the curriculum in Gaelic.

The school day is between 9am-3pm with the academic year starting in September and ending in June. Parents are expected to apply directly to the school that they want to send their child in due to each school having their own policy.

The School Education System is divided into four parts – Pre-School, Primary Education, Secondary Education and Higher Education


Children from the age of three – four years old are able to attend pre-school before they start primary school. This is a free pre-school year scheme which children must be eligible to attend. Expats wanting to the send their children to early childcare, this is available to them in the forms of private pre-school.

Primary Education

There are three forms of primary schools – State-funded, special school and private primary school.

Primary education covers junior infants, senior infants and years one to six which generally lasts for eight years. The curriculum of primary education includes subjects in Maths, Physical Education, Irish and English language and Science.

Secondary Education

There are different institutes which offer secondary education: Vocational schools, comprehensive schools, secondary schools and community schools.

The secondary education in Ireland comes in two cycles, the junior cycle and the senior cycle.

Junior Cycle:  Children at the age of twelve will start in the junior cycle and this lasts for three years. Once the junior cycle has been completed, children are required take a junior certificate examinations

Senior Cycle: The senior cycle lasts for two – three years depending on if they take out a transition year. This is where children are able to take part in different topics or can do work experience.

Children are able to choose between different programs which will eventually lead to different state examinations

  • The Leaving Certificate: This route has 30 subjects to choose from which can be studied at a higher level. Students will need to take five subjects, however some do choose to take six or seven.
  • The Learning certificate applied programme (LCA): This is generally for students who do not continue higher education; the programme is cross-curricular and focuses on work in a practical environment.
  • The Leaving certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP): This is combined of academic strengths of the leaving certificate and focuses more on enterprise and the community.

Higher Education

Expats who are looking to go into higher education will find there is different institutions available which include a number of universities.

The application for university is handled by the Independent central applications office and the course place is based on a common points scale. This looks at the best results which have been achieved in the leaving certificate programme exam. Universities and colleges will have their own point’s requirements for the courses offered.

Public Schools

The standard of education in public schools is quite high and they follow the Irish national curriculum. Parents are not required to pay for education in public schools but will be expected to pay for school books, lunch, uniforms and curricular activities that their child may take part in.

The national curriculum is followed by all state schools which are all mainly based on examinations.

Priority of admission is given to those children, who live in the area, so it is recommended that accommodation should be confirmed before going through the admission process for a public school.

Private Schools

Expat parents who want to send their child to a private school will be able to do so with the number of schools available. Most of these are located in the major cities and they are privately funded.

The majority of private schools are religious (mainly Catholic) and may teach in the language Gaelic so it is important that parents find out this information before admission.

The education which is taught in private schools aims to get children to the level which is required for entry into higher education/university.

Irish private schools are fairly expensive with fees being thousands of Euros per academic year.

International Schools

Expats who would rather send their children to an international school will find most of them are located in Dublin. International schools offer the International Baccalaureate curriculum, GCSE (UK) or PSAT (USA) with some catering to German, French and Japanese nationals.

Tuition fees can be very expensive and the International schools are difficult to get into with the high demand and waiting lists.

Some International schools available in Ireland:

  • St Andews College – Offers the International Baccalaureate
  • Sutton Park School – Located in Dublin
  • St Killians – German School located in Dublin
  • Lycee Francais d’Irlands – French School located in Dublin

Most International schools will set their own term dates with a different start for the academic year; this must be checked with the school you enrol your child in.