Practical Assessment Trials – An update from the SEC

With reference to the trialling by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) in October 2017 of the proposed practical assessment arrangements for revised NCCA subject specifications in Leaving Certificate Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

The SEC report on the trial was completed earlier this year and submitted to the Curriculum and Assessment Policy unit of the Department of Education and Skills during the Summer, for consideration by the Department and the Minister. Last week they report was published on It can be found under ‘About us’ ‘Publications’ on the DES website.  As well as the report itself, further material of interest can be found in the appendices that are available separately on the same web page.

While the report makes clear that the trial was very successful in many respects, it equally makes clear that rolling out this particular model of practical assessment would entail considerable challenges for schools, teachers and the SEC.  The Department considers that this raises the question as to the feasibility of implementing the model at this time.  Following detailed consideration of the report, the Department has written to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), asking them to explore the potential of a coursework component instead, incorporating within it a strong emphasis on practical work, and to also make whatever updates to the draft specifications might be needed.

Once this work is done, the SEC are looking forward to working again with science teachers,  schools and other agencies to ensure that students of science subjects for Leaving Certificate are provided with an examination that tests the full range of their achievements in science fairly and fully and in a way that supports and encourages high-quality teaching and learning.