Clonmel students among first cohort to graduate from new Computer Science programme at Leaving Cert

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of the new Leaving Certificate subject Computer Science, according to researchers at Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software and University of Limerick.

Computer Science was available to Leaving Certificate students in 40 schools (13 DEIS Schools) selected via open competition. The subject will be rolled out nationally for Leaving Certificate students commencing in September 2020, for examination in 2022.
Lero’s Clare McInerney, who is part of a team researching the implementation of the new Computer Science Programme at Leaving Certificate, said it is hard to imagine how we could continue to function as a society without the digital technologies we take for granted.
“Right now, digital technologies are playing so many important roles they are frequently overlooked. For example, while most people would agree that software such as Skype or Zoom are poor substitutes for face-to-face meetings, they nonetheless provide us with opportunities to meet and interact that otherwise would not be possible. Computer technology is also playing a critical role in helping us to undertake contact tracing and research the virus to find a vaccine,” she added.

Ms McInerney, who is Education and Public Engagement Manager in Lero, said the Computer Science course provides students with essential life skills and many opportunities.
“Not only have they developed crucial 21st-century skills such as problem-solving, collaboration and critical thinking, as citizens equipped with knowledge of Computer Science, they are also more informed about how digital technologies impact their lives,” she said.
Fellow team member Dr Oliver McGarr, senior lecturer at the School of Education at the University of Limerick, said regardless of whether a student chooses a career in health, medicine, engineering, science or business, computing is playing an increasingly fundamental role.
“Digital technologies play such a central role in our day-to-day lives, knowledge of Computer Science should no longer be seen as a specialist body of knowledge for a select few, but instead an important area of knowledge for all.
“Studying Computer Science in school means that students will be better informed about the subject at third level and this is therefore likely to improve retention in these courses. However, our research shows that studying Computer Science at Leaving Cert can equip young women and young men with skills that are relevant and transferable across so many third level courses, and better prepare them for a wide range of careers.”
Dr McGarr said that at the heart of this new Leaving Certificate subject is a focus on project-based learning where students work collaboratively to solve problems.
“It is this emphasis on active student learning and solving real-life problems that sets this subject apart. We have found that the students particularly enjoyed the collaborative and problem-solving focus, which made it stand out from other subjects.
Over the past two years, research by the team at Lero and UL has tracked the experiences of teachers beginning to teach the subject and helped to inform the on-going roll-out of the subject in schools.
“It is especially important to acknowledge the dedication of all those involved, particularly the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) and the participating teachers. Along with teaching their traditional subjects over the past two years, these teachers have also taken on this new subject. Without their commitment and enthusiasm, it would not have been such as success,” added Dr McGarr.

Leaving Certificate Computer Science: A new specification for Leaving Certificate Computer Science was introduced on a phased basis in September 2018 and was part of the Leaving Certificate 2020. The subject was only available to Leaving Certificate students in 40 schools (13 DEIS Schools) selected via open competition. The subject will be rolled out nationally for Leaving Certificate students commencing in September 2020, for examination in 2022.
At Junior Cycle, the short course in Coding, which Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software, was commissioned to write by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), now runs in more than 80 schools across Ireland.
The team researching the implementation of the new Computer Science programme for Leaving Certificate as part of a Science Foundation Ireland funded project include: Dr Oliver McGarr, senior lecturer at the School of Education at the University of Limerick; Clare McInerney, Education and Public Engagement Manager in Lero, the SFI Research Centre for Software, based at University of Limerick; Dr Chris Exton, senior lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems and a Principal Investigator in Lero; Julie Power, programme manager for Leaving Certificate Computer Science programme, Lero.

About Lero: Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software, brings together expert software teams from universities and institutes of technology across Ireland in a co-ordinated centre of research excellence with a strong industry focus. Lero’s research spans a wide range of application domains from driverless cars to artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, esports, fintech, govtech, smart communities, agtech and healthtech.
Hosted by the University of Limerick, Lero’s academic partners include Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, Maynooth University, National University of Ireland Galway, University College Cork, Institute of Technology Tralee and Dundalk Institute of Technology.
Lero’s overall vision is to establish Ireland as a location synonymous with high-quality software research and development, to the extent that ‘Irish software’ can enter the lexicon in the same way as ‘German automotive’ or ‘Scandinavian design’.
As the world’s second-largest software exporter, Ireland is recognised internationally as a leading location for companies in the software sector and Lero is a key pillar in the sector. Fifteen out of the top 20 global technology firms have strategic operations in Ireland. Since its foundation in 2005, Lero has become one of the best-known, and most highly regarded, software research centres in the world.

  • Lero is ranked joint number one among software research centres worldwide for citations.
  • Lero partners with three of the top 10 technology companies in the world.
  • Lero researchers engage directly with more than 10,000 members of the public every year.
  • Lero has introduced software and computer science programmes in the Irish education system from primary to graduate level.
  • Every €1 invested in Lero contributes more than €5 to the economy.


Participating Schools

Abbey Vocational School The Glebe, Donegal Town, Co. Donegal
Adamstown Community College Station Rd, Adamstown, Co. Dublin
Breifne College Cootehill Rd, Cavan, Co. Cavan
Bush Post Primary Riverstown, Dundalk, Co. Louth
Carrigaline Community School Waterpark, Carrigaline, Co. Cork
Castleblayney College Dublin Road, Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan
Christ King Girls Secondary School Half Moon Lane, South Douglas Road, Cork
Clongowes Wood College Clane, Co. Kildare
Coláiste an Chraoibhin Duntaheen Road, Fermoy, Co. Cork
Coláiste Bríde New Road, Clondalkin, Dublin 22
Coláiste Chiaráin Croom, Co. Limerick
Coláiste Choilm Ballincollig, Co. Cork
Coláiste Mhuire Mullingar, Co. Westmeath
Coláiste na Ríochta Listowel, Co. Kerry
Colaiste Phadraig Roselawn, Lucan, Co. Dublin
Coláiste Pobail Setanta Phibblestown CC, Phibblestown, Dublin 15
Creagh College Carnew Road, Gorey, Co. Wexford
Dominican College Sion Hill Sion Hill, Blackrock, Co Dublin
Ennistymon Vocational School Ennistymon, Co. Clare
Gaelcholaiste Mhuire AG An Mhainistir Thuaidh, Corcaigh
Le Chéile Secondary School Hollystown Road, Tyrellstown, Dublin 15
Loreto College Swords, Co. Dublin
Luttrellstown Community College Mill Road, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15
Mayfield Community School Old Youghal Road, Mayfield, Cork
Moate Community School Church Street, Moate, Co. Westmeath
Mount Sion CBS Barrack Street, Waterford
Mount Temple Comprehensive Malahide Road, Dublin 3
Presentation Secondary school Clonmel, Co. Tipperary
Rice College Castlebar Road, Westport, Co. Mayo
Sacred Heart Secondary School Convent of Mercy, Clonakilty, Co. Cork
Saint Eunan’s College Letterkenny, Co. Donegal
St Aidan’s Comprehensive School Cootehill, Co. Cavan
St Brigids Mercy Secondary School Convent Of Mercy, Tuam, Co. Galway
St Joseph’s Secondary School Convent Lane, Rush, Co. Dublin
St Mary’s CBS Millpark Road, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford
St Vincent’s Secondary School Seatown Place, Dundalk, Co. Louth
St. Finian’s Community College Swords, Co. Dublin
Stratford College 1 Zion Road, Rathgar, Dublin 6
Synge St CBS Synge St., Dublin 8
Terenure College Templeogue Road, Terenure, Dublin 6W

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