An alternative to the Leaving Cert for college-bound kids

Limerick school offers the International Baccalaurate Diploma Programme

School: Villiers School, North Circular Road in Limerick

The Leaving Cert isn't always the best option for everyone. So what is? For a long time, St Andrew's, a fee-paying in Booterstown, Co Dublin, has been the only school to offer the International Baccalaurate Diploma Programme (IBDP), an internationally recognised and accepted qualification for entry into higher education worldwide.

Now, however, it's been joined by Villiers, a fee-paying school in Limerick city. So what is the IB and why are Villiers taking this leap?

"We have always been concerned with the whole person and not just paying lip service to the idea," explains Jill Storey, headmistress of Villiers. "We want our young people to leave as independent, open-minded thinkers who can communicate with others, analysing situations and making informed judgements. The IB moves away from spoon-feeding and helps the students to become principles people, risk-takers and reflective inquirers."


The IB is a multi-disciplinary programme where students study six major subjects.

These include:

- two languages - usually language and literature in their own native tongue and a European language

- an experimental science subject with options including biology, chemistry, physics, design technology and computer science.

- a subject under the heading “individuals and societies” including business, geography, psychology, anthropology, world religions and global politics.

- an arts subject with options including dance, music, film, visual arts and theatre

IB candidates also carry out a community service and an extended essay on an area of particular interest to them.

"Our teachers saw IB students in action through our participation in Model United Nations and were enthused by the calibre of the students they were encountering" Storey explains. "The IB is a means for our naturally diverse student population - which includes students from 30 countries - to become active and caring members of local, national and global communities. So far, teachers involved are reporting that they have more imaginative, interactive and better organised lessons from first to sixth year. The focus is on inquiry-based learning and students are encouraged to direct their own learning, while it naturally leads to increased collaboration between staff and subject departments. It really allows students to specialise in their preferred areas, because the expectation is that student take three subjects at standard level and three at higher level, and both are awarded the same number of points. It moves away from memorisation and rote learning. We're really excited about it."

Factfile: Villiers school, Limerick

Villiers is a co-educational, fee paying and boarding voluntary secondary school with 600 students. The school has a broadly Protestant ethos but welcomes students from all backgrounds.

Leaving Cert subject options: Accounting, agricultural science, applied maths, art, biology, business, chemistry, construction, design and communication graphics, economics, French, German, history, Japanese, Leaving Cert vocational programme, music, religious education, Spanish, technology

Interesting facts:

- Alumni include Max Dennison (Oscar winning make-up artist), Jan O'Sullivan (former minister for education), Daniel Kethcum (gold medal Olympian for USA swim team) and Donald Clarke (Irish Times journalist)

- National Roboteer Champions for 2016 and 2017