#stateoftheart - The facts and figures

Marking scheme

The 2016 Leaving Cert results confirm art is the most difficult subject to achieve an A1 grade at higher level:

A1 Comparison 2016

Percentage A1 (HL) Subject
1.3% Art
5.5% Maths (HL)
6.1% History
2.4% Geography
16.3% Latin
4.2% Classical Studies
5.8% French
10.3% Physics
4% Agricultural Science
3.8% Business Studies
5.6% Design & Communications Graphics

Source: National Statistics for candidates and grades 2016

In our competitive points system, this consistently low number of candidates achieving higher grades in art is resulting in a pattern of students opting out of the subject at senior cycle:

Drop in number of students choosing art at Leaving Cert 2011-2016 (almost 2.5%)

Number of students (HL) Year
9,747 2016
10,783 2011


National Statistics for LC number of Candidates 2016
National Statistics for subject choice and grades 2016
National Statistics for LC number of Candidates 2011
National Statistics for subject choice and grades 2011

Curriculum development & reform

The Leaving Certificate art curriculum was introduced in 1968, with art history and appreciation added in 1972. As of 2016, the curriculum has not changed in 42 years. A new art curriculum was drawn up and sanctioned by the NCCA in 2005, but is yet to be implemented.

Third level Art entry requirements:

Under the present inequitable system Leaving Cert art coursework and exam results aren’t recognised as entry into Art College. In fact, students don’t need to have studied art at Leaving Cert to gain entry to Art College.

Third level art colleges require students to produce a portfolio of artwork for assessment. This isn’t catered for by the current curriculum, so many students feel pressure to attend portfolio classes, an additional financial expense to their parents and adds to the already heavy Leaving Certificate workload.

Such obvious disconnects between the Leaving Cert Art curriculum and 3rd level art institutions make for a confusing and stressful experience, for students, parents and teachers.

Current/proposed changes

A change to the assessment process has been introduced for students entering senior cycle in Sept 2016.

The ATAI welcome the change and acknowledge the hard work by all parties involved. But it’s essential this first step continue into more meaningful change. The curriculum itself, including art history and appreciation should now be addressed to reflect the changes in art, industry and society in which we now live – and to bring Leaving Cert Art in line with requirements for third level art institutions.

If the number of students continue to decline at the current rate, we believe art, craft and design will become marginalised not only at senior cycle, but in third level education and the workplace, ultimately negatively affecting our national, cultural and creative productivity.

By taking action now, we are investing in the future: securing the educational development of quality graduates who make a significant contribution not just to the art and design sectors but also to all elements of our wider economy, society and culture.

What are we calling for?

  1. The Department of Education, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and State Examination Commission (SEC) to work together with art teachers, parent and student groups and relevant stakeholders in culture and industry to design and implement a new Leaving Cert curriculum, not simply assessment reform.
  2. Address the disconnect between the Leaving Certificate art curriculum and exam and the entry requirements into third level Art and Design colleges.
  3. Incorporate contemporary technologies and design processes into the curriculum.
  4. Review the current provision of art history and its relationship to the practical art and design syllabus.

Get involved

  • Plan and organise an event on Oct 26th to highlight the current crisis in Leaving Certificate Art, document it, get it reported by your local press and put it on social media.
  • Sign the petition and have your voice heard.
  • Contact the ATAI to arrange collection of a #stateoftheart postcard so you can show the Minister for Education your creative skills.
  • Create a hashtag, vlog or image expressing your experience of the Leaving Cert art curriculum and exam and upload it to our social media
  • Or, join us at our National Conference Sept 24th or our AGM on Oct 22nd.

More facts & figures

  1. In 2016, 80% of Leaving Certificate art students chose higher level, proving their high educational aspirations and ability.
  2. In 2016, students were four times more likely to get an A in higher level physics than in higher level art and seven times more likely to get an A in ordinary level physics than in ordinary level art.
  3. Candidates at ordinary level experience the inequity of the current system; in 2016, 1011 male students took ordinary level art in the leaving cert, only one achieved an A1 grade.
  4. Art History and Appreciation makes up 37.5% of the leaving cert art exam, students are expected to study the history of European and Irish art, craft and design from c.3200 BC to the present day in approximately 44 class hours.


Art in the media