English – Senior Cycle


The remit of the specialist course committee for English, which was put in place by the NCCA, stressed that the new English syllabus should give priority to the study and acquisition of the language skills, both oral and written, that are needed for adult life. Specifically, the new syllabus should provide opportunities for the development of the higherorder thinking skills of analysis, inference, synthesis and evaluation. Also students’ knowledge and level of control of the more formal aspects of language, e.g. register, paragraphs, syntax, punctuation and spelling, should be given particular attention in the new syllabus. Consequently this syllabus, both in its structure and in its content, is a radical and original response to the stated remit. The study of thinking skills and language are emphasised throughout. Itemised lists of skills related to specific categories of language use are presented as the expected learning outcomes. Students will be expected to see every language product whether it be a memo or a poem, a political speech or a play, as a text which needs to be studied and its specific genre understood. Developing students’ interest in literature remains central to Leaving Certificate English. The syllabus has also been innovative in this area. Building on the Junior Certificate syllabus, it has introduced the comparative study of texts and the study of film, enlarged the range of choice in texts and revised and updated the poetry course.

Structure of the Syllabus

The course is organised around two general domains:
(i) comprehending
(ii) composing

  • Within these two domains the students will be actively and creatively engaged in using language. The concept of shaping is central to these domains. Students in their comprehending tasks will come to understand how language shapes experience through style, genre, and context. In their composing tasks, students will be afforded the opportunity of using language to shape and order experience for themselves. The integration of the two domains in the teaching of this syllabus will be a vital necessity. The principle of integrating the teaching of language and literature, already central to the Junior Certificate syllabus, is of great moment here as well.
  • To give a more structured sense of development to the course, these two domains are to be largely encountered in the context of specific areas of language use and through the study of certain texts and resources.
  • There are many ways of classifying language use. However, for the purposes of this syllabus it is proposed to classify language under five general headings, which relate to the central concept of language as a powerful means of shaping and ordering experience. The five general headings are:

The language of information
The language of argument
The language of persuasion
The language of narration
The aesthetic use of language

  • It is accepted that to classify language in this way is artificial. The general functions of language outlined here will continually mix and mingle within texts and genres. So, there can be an aesthetic argument, a persuasive narrative, or an informative play. But if students are to become adept with language, then they need to understand that it is through these functions, used within a variety of genres, that language achieves meaning, power, and effect.
  • It is of primary importance in this syllabus that the students should engage with the domains of comprehending and composing in oral, written and, where possible, visual contexts. The subject “English” as envisaged by this syllabus is not limited to the written word. In the modern world, most students encounter significant language experiences in oral and visual contexts. The experience of language in the media in all forms, visual, aural and print, needs to be recognised as a prime, shaping agency of students’ outlook. This wide range of encounters with language will be reflected in the assessment and examination of students.


The aims of this syllabus are to develop in students:

  • A mature and critical literacy to prepare them for the responsibilities and challenges of adult life in all contexts;
  • A respect and appreciation for language used accurately and appropriately and a competence in a wide range of language skills both oral and written.
  • An awareness of the value of literature in its diverse forms for enriching their perceptions, for enhancing their sense of cultural identity, and for creating experiences of aesthetic pleasure;
  • In addressing these aims this syllabus will foster students’ development in the following areas:

CONCEPTS & PROCESSES: the ability to think, reason, discriminate and evaluate in a wide variety of linguistic contexts, personal, social, vocational and cultural. In comprehending, students should be able to analyze, infer, synthesise and evaluate; in composing, students should be able to research, plan, draft, re- draft, and edit.

KNOWLEDGE & CONTENT: knowledge about the nature and uses of language and the variety of functions and genres in which it operates. In this context genres of literature will be of particular significance.

SKILLS: interpreting and controlling the textual features (grammar, syntax, spellings, paragraphing) of written and oral language to express and communicate.

ATTITUDES & EFFECTS: the development of interest and enjoyment in using language, a respect for its potential to make meaning and an appreciation of its diverse cultural manifestations.