The Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science syllabus is designed to provide pupils with the necessary skills, practical experience and knowledge in a range of agricultural and scientific principles. The broad course takes in a wide array of topics including Soil Science, Sheep Management, Dairy and Beef Production and Plant & Animal Biology.
The course is typically aimed at pupils with an interest in Agriculture and Horticulture or those who wish to pursue a career in Veterinary medicine. An agricultural background is not a necessity, and the course covers a wide variety of topics.
The subject is based on the principles and practices of Irish farms and deals in detail with Sheep Management and Production, Beef Production, Dairy Farm Management, Grassland Management and Tillage Crop Growth and Harvesting as well as Horticulture (Gardening Design and Practices). Additional topics include Forestry, Soil Science and Farm Safety. It also covers Animal Biology and Taxonomy, Plant Biology and classification as well as Soil Science.
As well as being classroom and lab orientated, a number of field trips and excursions to farms, universities and laboratories will allow those undertaking the course see the practical applications of their learning. Throughout the two year course the pupils will keep a portfolio of their practical experience, which will be assessed and contribute to their overall grade in the Leaving Certificate.
The Agricultural Science classes are positioned within the Q Set, meaning they are allocated two class periods per week. Additional lessons were organised outside of these slots, to accommodate practical coursework and investigations. While classes are mixed ability, most pupils would aim to sit the High Level exam at Leaving Certificate. Every effort is made to expose the pupils to a range of practical investigations, as well as collaborative project work. In addition, the pupils will visit a number of farms throughout the course, typically a sheep farm, dairy, beef, potato and tillage farm. Pupils also visit the National Ploughing Championship each year. Pupils are expected to keep a portfolio of their practical experience, which will later account for up to 25% of their overall Leaving Certificate grade in the subject. Effort marks are awarded according to the school policy and exams are given at end of term.
The Science Department of St. Columba’s College is housed within a recently renovated and dedicated building. The laboratories were designed by the teaching staff and are aimed at a collaborative investigative approach to science education. Agricultural Science is taught in a dedicated Biology / Agricultural Science laboratory and is extremely well resourced.
The Agricultural Science teacher, Mr. Humphrey Jones, is heavily involved member of IASTA (Irish Agricultural Science Teachers Association) designing and maintaining their website. He has been involved with AgriAware in providing a series of Agricultural Science study resources for pupils across Ireland. He has also written articles for the Farmers’ Journal. Mr Jones has also been working with the PDST since 2009, with responsibility for creating a Resource DVD for teachers of agricultural science. He also created and maintains a video blog for agricultural science teachers (http://agsciencevideos.blogspot.com).
Humphrey Jones, BScEd (Head of Biology & Agricultural Science)