The vast majority of students make the transition from primary to post-primary education. Students are required to complete three years of post-primary education. Most often, students complete this junior cycle (lower secondary education) between the ages of 12 and 15. They then proceed to senior cycle (upper secondary education) where they choose from a range of programmes over a two or three year cycle. Senior cycle (upper secondary education) generally covers the ages 15 to 18 years.
There are several types of post-primary school: voluntary secondary, vocational, community schools, community colleges and comprehensive schools. While the management structure and the history of each school-type differ they have a lot in common. They follow the curriculum prescribed by the State and offer the two State examinations, Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate that take place at the end of junior cycle and senior cycle.
The booklet: A Brief Description of the Irish Education System published by the Department of Education and Science contains a useful overview of post-primary education and the education system in general.