High School Program Ireland

If you are dreaming about studying abroad and perfect your English, then the ICES High School Program in Ireland is an awesome opportunity to combine studies with a rich cultural experience. Our program in Ireland offers both public and private schools, and is available to students between 12 and 18 years old at the start of the program. Students can study in Ireland for as little as one term, or remain on the program for multiple years and graduate from high school. Our team in Ireland has been welcoming international students to the Emerald Isle for over 15 years.

Come join the many thousands of high school students who have had an amazing experience in Ireland!


Living and Studying in Ireland

Ireland offers an exciting alternative to other English-speaking destinations for High School students. Famous for its rolling hills and dramatic coastlines, the country is equally well know for the lively and generous spirit of its people. Studying in Ireland will expose students to all of this as well as typical Irish sports, and the Irish language itself.

International students are placed primarily in Munster, around well-known cities, such as Cork, Killarney and Tralee. The area is in the south west of Ireland and is famous for its breath-taking coastlines, stunning national parks, and many historic buildings. Sports play an important part in the community life with the area boasting one of Europe’s top rugby clubs. Students will no doubt be introduced to new sports like gaelic football and hurling.



Your Irish Host Family

Irish people are renowned for their friendly and welcoming nature and our host families are wonderful example of this culture. Students on our High School program in Ireland will be placed in a carefully selected and vetted host family.

ICES host families provide room and board to exchange students during their stay in Ireland. More importantly, they provide the love and support that a young person needs during this once-in-a-lifetime experience. While living in Ireland, students have the same responsibilities as Irish teenagers – they must participate fully in the family life, including observing family rules and sharing chores.

ICES host families come from all backgrounds, faiths and philosophies. Some families have two host parents, and others are single- parent families. Some have young children who will enjoy the experience of having a “big brother or sister.” Sometimes the host parents have no children, or their children are grown up and live on their own. Often host parents work outside the home. Whatever the circumstances, host families share a common trait – they have enough love to make a young person from another country part of their family.

The rewards are many. Host Families learn about a foreign country and culture from the perspective of an exchange student who has lived there. They share in the evolving process of bringing the world closer together and promoting peace through international understanding. Most of all, they gain a new son or daughter, with shared love and friendship that will last a lifetime!


Your High School in Ireland

Each year exchange students come to Ireland to share their customs and their culture in exchange for the opportunity to learn about Ireland and its citizens. This is made possible by school personnel across Ireland who realize the value of this experience and are open to the enrollment of foreign students in their schools. Exchange students bring a different perspective to the classroom. They serve as an educational resource for teachers and introduce fellow students to cultures other than their own.

We have a long-standing relationship with most of our schools and work closely with them to make sure students are placed in a school which will be able to offer them the subjects and support they need.

Public or Private School?

Students with an EU passport can study at a public school in Ireland. They can also choose to study at a private school. Students who do not have an EU passport need to enroll at a private school. Private schools in Ireland follow the same curriculum as public schools but the benefits of private schools include smaller classes sizes, more subjects on offer, and more extra-curricular activities.

ICES students are encouraged to participate in the full range of sports, clubs and other social activities available to them, as this will allow students to integrate and adjust to their new environment more quickly and smoothly. To some students, extracurricular involvement at the school or within the local community will prove to be a vital part of their ICES experience. Irish high schools differ with regard to extracurricular opportunities, and in many cases most sports and clubs will be organized by community groups. Some sports offered are unique to Ireland, so be prepared to be flexible and try new things. Also be aware that athletic eligibility or participation is not guaranteed.


Wearing a school uniform is often one of the biggest differences between school in Ireland, and that in the student’s home country. The uniform encourages a sense of community throughout the school. In Ireland, school Uniform is compulsory in nearly every school and pupils must wear black shoes. The schools have a strict uniform policy which students must follow all the time. Some schools have a PE uniform and others the pupils can wear their own sports clothes.

Download the ‘High School Program Ireland’ flyer

The Irish School System

The Irish high school system in broken up in to two distinct segments: the Junior Cycle, and the Senior Cycle. Between these two segments, student can also partake in the Transition Year. At the end of the Junior Cycle, students take the Junior Certificate and at the end of the Senior Cycle students take the Leaving Certificate.

Junior Cycle

Junior Cycle is the first 3 years of secondary school. Students are 12 or 13 when they begin the Junior Cycle, and 14 or 15 years old when they complete it. Pupils usually take a number of core subjects. Core subjects follow a common course in first year and students are assessed for higher or ordinary level from the start of second year onward.

In addition to the core subjects all first year students taste the remaining subjects on the curriculum. Having completed the first year taster program students, at the end of first year, choose the option subjects they wish to keep on into second year based on their interest, ability and potential for success in the subject.

Students preparing for their Junior Certificate will be required to take a maximum of 10 subjects for examination in the third year.

Transition Year

Transition Year is a very successful and popular part of the school curriculum. TY, as it is also known, is a one year optional program and is not offered in every school in Ireland.

Students participate in a wide range of activities during TY including Work Experience, Extra Curricular Activities, Workshops, Trips, First Aid, Public Speaking, ECDL and the Gaisce Award. TY allows students to experience the world of work and offers them new opportunities for future development and provides a bridge from junior to senior cycle.

TY enhances academic achievements as students prepare for the Leaving Certificate. Students complete taster courses in many Leaving Certificate subjects during Transition Year and this helps when it comes to making subject choices at the end of the year.

TY usually carries an extra fee and this can vary between each school. Transition Year programs are only available for students participating on a full Academic Year program. They can be especially useful for students with a lower level of English.

Senior Cycle

Senior Cycle is the final two years of school leading to the Leaving Certificate Examination. Subjects are normally studied at either Ordinary or Higher Level. Two subjects, Irish and Mathematics, can be studied at Foundation Level. Foundation Level is geared to the needs of students who might have difficulty with those subjects at Ordinary or Higher Level.

Students normally study 6 or 7 subjects during the Senior Cycle. English, Math and Irish are compulsory subjects but International students are exempt from studying Irish and are either offered extra English lessons or a study period at the discretion of the school.

The school will then offer 3-4 subjects as optional subjects. Sometimes the International student will have a choice and sometimes this will be limited due to availability.

Students attending the last year of the senior cycle can choose to sit their Leaving Certificate exams and graduate.



The Academic Calendar

The Irish school year is broken up into three terms. The year begins at the end of August and the first term ends just before Christmas. The second term starts in early January and goes on until Easter. The third term starts after the Easter vacation and goes on until the end of May. Students sitting the Leaving Certificate exams will do so during the first three weeks of June. International students on the ICES High School Program in Ireland can attend for a full academic year, 1 term starting at the beginning of the academic year, or a semester running from January until the end of the academic year. Students choosing a private school need to attend for a full academic year.

Term 1 – From Last Monday August to Christmas break approx. 22 Dec

Term 2 – Early January until the Easter Break

Term 3 – From after the 2 week Easter break until end of May


Student Program Requirements

  • AGE:   12 – 18
  • ACADEMICS:   A minimum of a C average in all courses taken over the past three years. Most recent school report.
  • ATTITUDE:   The maturity to deal with the inevitable challenges of adapting to another culture and communicating in a foreign language.
  • ENGLISH LANGUAGE SKILLS:   Demonstrate acceptable scores on the Standard Test for English Proficiency. Students should also be comfortable and competent in using English conversationally to follow course work and socialize.
  • INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY:   An open mind toward learning the ins and outs of another culture, such as its social customs, as well as concrete experiences such as food and fun.

Quick Facts

Why choose Ireland?

  • Unique culture
  • From 12 years old
  • No minimum language requirement
  • Study for multiple years
  • Graduate after only 1 year
  • Simple visa process for most nationalities

Who can study in Ireland?

  • 12 – 18 years old
  • EU passport holders (Public and Private schools)
  • Non-EU passport holders (Private schools only)

Program duration

  • Academic Year – Late August to May / June (Public and Private school)
  • Semester – January to May (Public school only)
  • 1 Term – Fall Start (Public school only)

What is included in the program fee?

  • School placement
  • Host Family placement
  • Arrival + Departure transfers (requested airport)
  • Supervision service
  • Full board

What is not included?

  • Host Family fees if student stays for Christmas
  • Host Family fees if student stays for Easter
  • School uniform
  • School books
  • School bus where needed
  • Online English lessons
  • Transition Year fees (if applicable)
  • Junior and Leaving Certificate exam and preparation exam fees. (if applicable)
  • Airport transfers if not arriving to requested airport
  • Special diet – Vegan, Gluten, Lactose
  • Visa fees for non-EU students over 18 years old on arrival

Are you ready to embark on an adventure of a life-time?