Post primary schools are also required to provide pupils with a broad and balanced education and therefore must provide at least one course related to each area of learning. From September 2013 schools will be required to provide all pupils with access to a minimum number of courses at KS4 (current target 24). In both cases at least one-third of the courses must be general courses and at least one-third applied courses.
What is a course?
A course is a period of study, based on one specification, which leads to a qualification accredited within the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). The content of the course should be distinct in that it is not replicated in any other course(s) offered as part of a school's provision. A course should be further defined, at Levels 1 and 2, as consisting, normally, of at least 120 guided learning hours (the equivalent of a GCSE), and at Level 3 as consisting, normally, of at least 360 guided learning hours (the equivalent of a GCE).
A general course is one in which knowledge, understanding and skills are developed within a subject-specific context. A general course should be further defined as one which requires the demonstration of knowledge and understanding mainly through the application of cognitive skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation. General courses are normally assessed through written and/or oral examinations, although some may require an element of practical demonstration.
An applied course is one in which subject knowledge, understanding and skills are developed in relation to a work context. An applied course should be further defined as one which requires the demonstration of knowledge, understanding and skills which are relevant to a particular occupation or general area of employment. Applied courses are normally assessed through the demonstration of appropriate (practical) skills which may be supported by written and/or oral presentation.