Second Level Education

Second-level education is provided by different types of post-primary schools. That is, secondary, vocational, community and comprehensive schools.

In Athlone there are three secondary schools and one community college.

Secondary schools are privately owned and managed. In most cases the trustees are religious communities or boards of governors.

Vocational schools are established by the State and administered by Education and Training Boards (ETB).

Community and comprehensive schools are managed by boards of management of differing compositions.

Athlone’s second-level schools are:

  • Our Lady’s Bower – Retreat road, secondary school for girls
  • Marist College – Retreat road, secondary school for boys
  • Athlone Community College – Retreat road, community college for both girls and boys
  • Joseph’s College – Summerhill, secondary school for both boys and girls


Second-level education consists of a three-year junior cycle followed by a two-year or three-year senior cycle depending on whether an optional transition year is taken following the junior certificate examination.

Students generally commence the junior cycle at the age of 12. The junior certificate is taken after three years.

Transition year follows the junior certificate examination. This year is free from formal examinations and allows students to experience a wide range of educational inputs, including work experience. Transition year can be a very useful experience for many students as it allows them to explore their individual skills and interests.

During their final two years in the senior cycle, students take one of three programmes, each leading to a State examination – the established Leaving Certificate, the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme or the Leaving Certificate Applied programme.

The established Leaving Certificate is the main basis upon which places in universities, institutes of technology and colleges of education are allocated.

The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme differs from the established Leaving Certificate in placing a concentration on technical subjects and including additional modules which have a vocational focus.

The Leaving Certificate Applied Programme has as its primary objective the preparation of participants for adult and working life through relevant learning experiences. These aim to develop the following areas of human endeavour: spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional, aesthetic and physical.

The Leaving Certificate Applied is not recognised for direct entry to third-level courses but it can enable students to take Post-Leaving Certificate courses.