St Brendans College Killarney

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Curriculum (

The Senior Cycle is a two-year cycle.  If your son is accepted in to Transition Year Programme, it is a three-year cycle. Student get the opportunity to sample all the subjects for Leaving Certificate during this year.

In February of Transition Year, students make their subject choices for Fifth Year. 


Senior Cycle – Leaving Certificate

Pupils take seven academic subjects for the Leaving Certificate

Core Subjects

  • Irish
  • English
  • Maths 



Irish is compulsory for all students unless they have had an exemption from Irish at Junior Level.

To study Irish at higher level it is recommended that students should have studied, sat and passed Higher Junior Certificate Irish.

Aim: that students…

  • Understand the spoken language
  • Understand the written language
  • Communicate in the spoken language
  • Communicate in the written language
  • Have an awareness of Irish culture and civilisation


Course Content:

– 5 poems common to Higher & Ordinary Level

– 4 Prose Pieces

– 8 poems for Higher Level only

– 1 Short film

– Short notes on the history of the Irish Language

– 1 Autobiography & Irish Literature

– Essay & Comprehension Work

– Aural (listening) and Oral (speaking) Work.

The oral is worth 40% (H & O) and the aural is worth 10% (H), 10% (O).



English is compulsory for all students.

To study English at Higher Level, it is recommended that students have obtained a Merit or higher in Junior Certificate Higher English.

Course Content:

  • Composition
  • Comprehension
  • Functional Writing/Writing to task-letters, speeches, diary entries, radio talks ….
  • Single Text (Shakespearean)Text
  • Comparative Text including film
  • Prescribed Poetry
  • Unseen Poetry



Maths is compulsory for all students. It is offered at higher, ordinary and foundation level. As it is so important to pass Maths in the Leaving Certificate we strongly recommend that all students follow the recommendation of their teachers. If during the course of Senior Cycle, a student, after consultation with their teacher, wishes to change from higher to ordinary level he must complete a “Change of Level” form which must be signed by the Guidance Counsellor, Parents/Guardians, Teachers concerned, Principal/Vice Principal.

Course Content:

Ordinary Level

Everyday arithmetic; Algebra; Geometry; Complex Numbers; Statistics; Choices & Probability; Trigonometry; Calculus; Sequences & Series; Binomial Expansion.

Higher Level

All of the above at a more advance level and in greater depth

 Vectors; Integration; Applications


Four others chosen from the following list: 

Other Subjects                                                                  

  • Accounting
  • Agricultural Science
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Art
  • Biology
  • Business
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Construction Studies
  • Design & Communication Graphics
  • Economics
  • French
  • Geography
  • German
  • History
  • Music
  • Physics
  • Politics & Society
  • *Spanish
  • *Home Economics


*Religious Education                       * Limited availability in St. Brigid’s


Language group – French German Spanish* (St. Brigid’s)

The general educational aims of a foreign language teaching are:

  1. to make it possible for pupils to take up job and further education/training opportunities, which may involve some use of the target language (increasingly important in the context of the development of the E.U.)
  2. to develop the pupils’ capacity to engage in useful interactions in another language.
  3. to give pupils an awareness of another culture.
  4. to contribute to pupils’ awareness of language as a system of communication.
  5. to develop an awareness of the grammatical structure of language.
  6. to encourage and equip pupils to participate in social and cultural activities, involving use of the target language. to give pupils the kind of language learning experience that will encourage and facilitate their learning other languages later in life.


The Leaving Certificate examination at both higher and ordinary levels consists of:

  1. An oral examination
  2. A listening comprehension test
  3. Reading comprehension tests
  4. Various tests of written production, including letter writing.


Science group

Applied Mathematics

The following topics are studied

  • Motion: displacement, velocity, relative velocity
  • Newton’s laws of motion; acceleration
  • Straight line motion; inclined plane; connected particles
  • Equilibrium under concurrent forces
  • Centre of gravity
  • Pressure in liquids; Archimedes’ principle
  • Projectiles; projectiles on inclined plane
  • Angular velocity; uniform circular motion
  • Conservation of momentum; direct collisions; oblique collisions
  • Simple harmonic motion
  • Rigid body motion; moments of inertia; angular momentum
  • Differential equations



Biology means ‘The Study of Life’ is all its variety of forms.

The human race shares this planet with one and half million species of animals and plants, many of which are essential for our survival as a species. It follows, therefore, that knowledge of the science of biology is essential for an understanding of human life and the living environment around us.

The Leaving Certificate Biology course covers 3 major units,

  1. Biology –The study of life
  2. The Cell
  3. The Organism

Students undertake a range of practical work, laboratory work and fieldwork.  100% of the subject is examined in the terminal written exam in June.



The study of Chemistry is desirable not only for those who wish to pursue a career in science or in careers allied to science, but also for those who wish to gain a deeper understanding of the world around them. Chemistry is very much the central foundation science subject, which makes it ideal to pair with Physics and Applied Maths.

Topics include: The Periodic Table; Atomic Structure; Stoichiometry; Formulae and Equation; Chemical Equilibrium; Electrochemistry; Volumetric analysis etc.

It is also an essential element in the study of Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Science, Physiotherapy, Engineering, Agricultural Science, Nursing, Pharmacy, Medical Laboratory Technology and numerous technician courses.

Assessment: 100% terminal exam. Useful skills: commitment to hard work; mathematical ability; interest in environmental and pharmaceutical issues.



Physics can be challenging.  Understanding a little more about the often-surprising ways of the physical world, far from detracting from your appreciation of nature, can make the world seem a more fascinating and complex place. How does the electric motor work? What evidence do we have that the Universe is expanding (the Big Bang)? Why is it that sound can go around corners but light cannot? How can we measure the power of an athlete? The answer to these questions and many more can be found in the study of Physics.

These are the main areas of study including some of the applications covered:

  • Mechanics (force and movement): satellites, collisions, acceleration of a car.
  • Optics: optical fibres, correcting faulty eyesight, mirrors
  • Heat: different temperature scales, refrigerators
  • Waves: spectra of light, loudness of sounds (decibels)
  • Electricity and magnetism: generators, Earth’s magnetism
  • Atomic and nuclear physics: television “tubes”, radioactivity, transistors.


Note: Higher level Mathematics is not a requirement for Leaving Certificate Physics topics – however it is better suited to students with mathematical inclination.


Business Studies group


Students of accounting will learn and understand published company accounts, make comparison of performance between companies, be able to take care of the basic accounting needs of a small business, club, farm or service firm (cash flows, final accounts, budgeting etc.), study the production of information needed for management decision-making etc.

Assessment: is based entirely on the terminal written examination.



Business is an exciting, practical, and vocationally oriented course that introduces students in simple and logical steps to the world of business. The course aims to create an awareness of the importance of enterprise and to generate a positive and ethical attitude in both business and personal life.

The syllabus if broken up into 3 broad areas:

  • People in business (the entrepreneurs, the managers, the workers and the consumers).
  • Enterprise (taking the business ideas and developing them into effective business enterprises).
  • Environment (how business relates to and connects with the environment, both domestic and international).



Subject Overview Economics focuses on “the ordinary business of life”. It explains how we get our incomes, how we use them, the supply of resources and the production and exchange of goods and services.

Decisions relating to these have social consequences, intended and unintended, which are also analysed in Economics. Content The syllabus for Leaving Certificate Economics offers students a broad introduction to economics. It introduces students to the nature of economics and to basic economic concepts.

Following this introduction, the units of study undertaken are

  • Production and consumption
  • Economic systems and economic thought
  • Demand and supply
  • Price and output
  • Factor incomes
  • Determination of national income and its fluctuations
  • Money and banking
  • The Government in the economy
  • Inflation
  • International trade and payments
  • Terms of trade
  • Economics of population
  • Economic growth and development
  • Economic policies, problems and conflicts


Assessment – The syllabus is assessed by means of a terminal examination paper at two levels, Ordinary level and Higher level. 80%Terminal Exam 20%Project.


Applied Sciences group

Agricultural Science

Agricultural Science is a biology-based course.

Topics covered include Zoology, Animal Physiology, Genetics, Microbiology, Botany, Plant Physiology, Crops, Animal and Plant Husbandry and Ecology.

Students develop an understanding of the main areas of the course and then develop an understanding of how these areas apply to agriculture and the environment. Useful Skills: organisational and time management skills for project work and experience on a farm is a great help! Assessment: 75% written work, 25% project work (Research Project).


Construction Studies

It is the study of the construction of buildings and why they are made the way they are. The main focus of the course is on the domestic house but it also ranges from the construction of sports arena to skyscrapers.

It is a practical course in which the student is given the opportunity to achieve 50% (25% project/portfolio & 25% practical exam) of their Leaving Certificate exam result during their Leaving Certificate year in a project and a practical exam.

The other 50% is assessed in a written exam (20% drawing & 30% theory) during the normal Leaving Certificate exams.

In class a student studies: How sound, light and heat affect the design of buildings. How to install electricity and plumb your home. How to build an extension. Calculate a U-value. How to buy your own house. How to get planning permission. How to survey a piece of land for construction. How to convert your attic.


Home Economics* (St. Brigid’s)

 Subject Overview

The Home Economics syllabus prepares students for a consumer-oriented society and provides a learning foundation for a wide range of careers in food, textiles, science, design, social studies and tourism. The subject is an applied subject combining theory with practice.

Content The syllabus is based on a core of three areas of study that is studied by all students and one elective area, from a choice of three.


  • Food studies
  • Resource management and consumer studies
  • Social studies

Electives The elective allows students the opportunity to undertake a more detailed study of one area of the core.

There are three electives, from which one may be chosen:

  • Home design and management
  • Textiles, fashion and design
  • Social studies

Assessment Leaving Certificate Home Economics-Scientific and Social is assessed, at Ordinary and Higher level, as follows:

  • A terminal examination paper
  • An assessment of the practical components of the programme, that is the food studies from the core area and the textiles, fashion and design elective (where applicable).

Examination paper 80% Core: 60% Electives: 20% Assessment of practical coursework


Design and Communication Graphics (DCG)

Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) is the graphic language of Technology. When Architects, Engineers and Interior Designers, for example, want to communicate their ideas or designs, they use Graphics. It has its own set of rules and regulations that govern how it is to be used, which are common throughout the world.

DCG is an educational experience in the broadest sense as it provides students with a body of knowledge and develops their intellect and creative abilities in topics that are appropriate and meaningful in a technological world.

Assessment: 60% Examination Plane & Solid Geometry Engineering Applications Building Applications 40% Project on Computer Design AutoCAD

Subject Content: Orthographic Projection, Solids in Contact, Developments/Envelopments – Label Design, Auxiliary Projection, Loci – Spirals, Interpenetration, Engineering Structures, Fabrication e.g., Roof Trusses etc., Mechanisms i.e., Cams, Gears etc., AutoCAD – Computer Drawing. OR Surveying & Mining i.e., Road Building, Site Layout etc., Building Structures i.e., Arch’s, Building Geometry, Roof Development, Presentation Drawings i.e., Perspective.


Computer Science

Computer Science is the study of computers and algorithmic processes.

Leaving Certificate Computer Science includes how programming and computational thinking can be applied to the solution of problems, and how computing technology impacts the world arounds us.

There are 3 strands:

Strand 1: Practices and principles: The overarching practices and principles of computer science are the behaviours and ways of thinking that computer scientists use. This strand underpins the specification and is fundamental to all learning activities. By becoming familiar with, and fluent in, the practices and principles that underpin good practice, students develop their ability to manage themselves and their learning across the subject.

Strand 2: Core Concepts: Students engage with the core concepts theoretically and practically in this strand, e.g., abstraction, data, computer systems, algorithms, and evaluating/testing.

Strand 3: Computer Science in Practice:

Students work in teams to carry out four applied learning tasks over the duration of the course. The four applied learning tasks explore the following contexts: Interactive information systems, Analytics, Modelling and simulation and embedded systems.

Assessment: The course is 30% project work (creating a piece of software) and 70% written exam.


Physical Education Leaving Certificate

The Aim of PELC is to develop the learner’s capacity to become an informed, skilled, self-directed and reflective performer in physical education so that they can be physically active for a lifetime. PELC is very different to the school’s current Physical Education programs. PELC allows students to study the scientific aspects of high level sports and physical activity.

There are many links to Physics, Biology, ICT and Mathematics in this subject, so a keen interest in these areas will be necessary. Projects in this subject rely heavily on the use of ICT, where platforms such as word, Excel, Adobe etc. are used on a constant basis.


The main objective of PELC include:

  • Reflect on physical activity on both individual and team basis.
  • Understand the factors that affect high level performance.
  • Appreciate the benefits of physical activity for lifelong health and wellbeing.
  • Undertake different roles in Physical Activity (Referee, Coach, Manager etc.)

It is important to note that this subject requires a good knowledge of biology, physics and maths from Junior Cycle, along with a strong sense of digital skills which will demand a lot of work and attention from students outside of the classroom.

Practical aspects of this course take up 50% of the final grade, however, it relies heavily on Theoretical aspects (definitions, theories, mathematical formulae) learn’t in class. This subject is perfect for any student with a high work rate and motivation with an interest in sports and physical activity outside of the classroom.

Assessment: Higher and Ordinary Level

A physical activity project 20%; Performance assessment 30%; Written examination 50%


Social Studies group


The art course is comprised of Art Appreciation and History of Art, incorporating topics such as history, imaginative composition, still life, design, life sketching, 2 dimensional work, craft (pottery, screen and lino printing) and ceramic sculpture.

Art, craft and design education develops a number of important personal qualities, particularly those of initiative, perseverance, sensibility and self-reliance. It also develops a visual awareness and an appreciation of art, architecture and the environment. It is a broad-ranging course, giving students an appreciation of the aesthetic values of life.

Art is a highly versatile subject, which prepares pupils for a wide range of careers such as marketing and design in the industrial, commercial and advertising areas; media work in T.V. and video design production; fashion design and industry; craft businesses; product design.


All the practical coursework 50% and Practical examination 20% is completed by May; the remaining 30% (History of Art) is completed in June. 30% Exam June =30%     Practical Day Exam (May) 20%    Practical coursework 50%

Note: An art portfolio is required for entry to all third level art and design courses.



It is the study of where places are, what they are like, what life is like in them, and how and why they are changing.  It can help you to: read and use maps, atlases and diagrams; gain knowledge of the world and understand current events; appreciate different cultures in this country and abroad; become aware of the physical and human environments.  In addition, knowledge, skills and attitudes learned in Geography can help you to understand topics in other subjects.

Geography provides an effective method for asking questions about:  places, the natural environment and the capacity of the earth to support human life.  It involves a pattern of enquiry that begins with two essential questions:  why are such things located in those particular places and how do those particular places affect our lives?

Content of Course

The geography course consists of a range of core (Physical, Regional, Geographical Investigation), Elective (Economic, Social) and Optional (Global Interdependence, Geo-ecology, Culture and Identity, The Atmosphere-Ocean Environment) units.

The Geographical Investigation (Fieldwork) is mandatory and is worth 20% (H) or 25% (O). The report on the Geographical Investigation will be submitted in advance of the terminal exam.

Therefore, the terminal exam is worth 80% (H) or 75% (O). 



A revised syllabus was introduced in 2004. History is now examined by means of a terminal written examination (80%) and a report on a research study (20%).

The terminal examination will include compulsory documents-based elements. The report on a research study will be submitted in advance of the terminal written exam. This Research Study can be about any aspect of history, in any period.  The teacher will help and oversee this work but the choice of subject matter is that of the student. 

As this replaces the “special essay” which was examined in the old Leaving Certificate paper, less time is required for the exam, which has been reduced from a marathon of 3 hours 20 minutes to 2 hours 50 minutes.  Ordinary level students follow an identical course, with a different emphasis in the way questions are asked on exam papers. 

The study of history at Leaving Certificate fulfils many of the general aims and principles of the Leaving Certificate programmes.

  • It emphasises the importance of individual thought.
  • It fosters a spirit of inquiry and critical thinking.
  • It helps to prepare students both for further education and for adult and working life.
  • It helps to prepare students for their role as active and participative citizens.



Music is, in its own right, a way of “knowing” and a form of knowledge and it also encourages the cognitive processes used in other subject areas. It is an immensely useful subject.

The new syllabus – first examined in 1999 – continues to emphasise the integration of the three activity areas introduced at Junior Certificate level:

  1. Performance (25%): Students may perform individually or as a group (Senior choir, band etc). The standard required is that of a student who has been performing in a school context for 5 years.
  2. Listening (25%) – includes: (a) Four prescribed works of different historical context; (b) Irish music; (c) General aural skills, i.e. rhythm, melody, vocal & instrumental timbres
  3. Composition (25%) – includes: melodic & harmonic composition, melody writing, adding chord symbols (e.g. guitar chords) to melody, adding bass notes (base line) to melody, exploring various styles of writing from popular to ‘classical’.
  4. Remaining 25%: Students may undertake any one of the above activities as a “higher elective” e.g.

performance could total 50 % of total.

The syllabus structure has been adopted to provide a fully balanced musical experience central to which is the development of musicality.


Note: it is possible to begin this syllabus with little knowledge of music theory or history but a working knowledge of a musical instrument (piano, guitar, voice etc.) is desirable.


Politics and Society

Structure Politics and Society is organised in four strands, each structured around key concepts. These are: 

  • STRAND 1 Power and decision-making 
  • STRAND 2 Active citizenship 
  • STRAND 3 Human rights and responsibilities
  • STRAND 4 Globalisation and localisation 

Assessment for certification in Politics and Society will be carried out through two assessment components: 

  1. Report on a citizenship project (20% of the total marks). 2.  Written examination (80% of the total marks).


Religious Education* (St. Brigid’s)

Religious Education is one of the most important forces shaping history, culture, and personal experience. To understand religion is to understand–and develop a stance towards–the most pressing concerns in life. The approach to this study stresses critical reading and writing skills, a broad base of global understanding, and reflection on ethical issues.

Given the importance of moral, social, aesthetic, and other value questions in our lives, religion will expand your educational horizons. It will give you insight into the human condition as well as an international understanding of this and other cultures.

Course Content: The course consists of three units:

Unit One:  The search for meaning and values

Unit Two: Any two of: Christianity; origins and contemporary expressions; World religions; Moral decision making

Unit Three: Any one of the following (excluding the two sections designated for coursework):

Religion and gender; Issues of justice and peace; Worship, prayer, and ritual; The Bible: literature and sacred text; Religion: the Irish experience; Religion and science.  


For the Leaving Certificate examination, the assessment procedure has two elements:

  1. Coursework (20%)
  2. 2. Terminal written paper (80%).

Politics and Society aims to develop the learner’s capacity to engage in reflective and active citizenship, informed by the insights and skills of social and political sciences.