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The Irish Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) is a school-based, pre-vocational alternative to the ‘high stakes’ established Leaving Certificate. Its origins lie in European Union funded ‘school to work’ initiatives and it is currently taken to completion by some 5% of Irish senior cycle students. Since it was designed 20 years ago, there has been little critical commentary regarding the programme. The current paper considers the public perceptions and fitness for purpose of this ring-fenced programme in a rapidly changing social and economic environment. Key aspects of this changed context include the increased numbers of Irish students completing secondary education and progressing to higher education, the changing destinations of LCA graduates and the recent economic downturn. The problems arising from ring-fencing are considered from the perspectives of parallel programmes in Australia, the UK and the Netherlands. Relevant issues are identified for discussion and review.

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Journal Article

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