The Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) was completed by 2,758 students this year — the lowest number for a decade.
The exams in June were the final stage of the two-year LCA programme which sees students build up credits from work which they begin in fifth-year.
From a peak of around 3,500 between 2004 and 2007, the numbers getting LCA awards dropped below 3,000 in 2013. This year’s total is down more than 4% from nearly 2,900 a year ago, despite overall Leaving Certificate numbers being up 0.9%.
Education authorities attribute the dropping numbers choosing the LCA option in recent years to improvements in how the system is catering for different levels of learners.
The LCA cannot be counted towards third-level entry through the Central Applications Office and those who take it are often students who might otherwise have been at risk of becoming early school leavers.
The vocational and social skills, emphasised by the LCA, open the doors for most to work or continue further training and education.
However, teachers have raised concerns the falling numbers are a result of the choices forced on schools by education cutbacks. Due to staffing limitations imposed by several budgets, some schools may have dropped programmes such as LCA.
The LCA is not graded like other exams, with students getting an overall award based on credits accumulated over two years.
The top mark of distinction is awarded for those with credits of 85% or more, which was achieved by 529, or nearly 20%, a similar proportion to last year. There were also similar numbers to 2015 of students getting merit (70% to 85%) and pass (60% to 70%) LCA awards.
There was a further fall in numbers of students doing the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme which offers a chance to mix work experience and enterprise with academic study.
But there was a big rise in the numbers doing it who got a distinction mark for 85% or higher in the links modules that students are marked on in addition to normal Leaving Certificate subjects.
This was achieved by 1,870 out of the 14,637 taking the LCVP, 250 more than last year when nearly 15,000 students in total did LCVP. This is down from close to 16,400 in 2011, and their number has dropped every year since then.
The links modules consists of compulsory work experience and enterprise activity, together with personal vocational exploration and substantial use of IT.
Nearly 7,500 of this year’s LCVP student have been awarded a merit (70% to 85%), and 4,291 receive a pass for achieving 60% to 70%.
These LCVP awards can be counted towards CAO points calculations, with 70 points given for a distinction, 50 points for merit and 30 points for pass.
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