A consultation process on senior cycle education has found a strong appetite for change among students, parents and teachers who contributed, according to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

Forty-one second level schools were involved in the consultation, which was run by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).

The ESRI, which analysed the findings, says participants felt a reformed fourth, fifth and sixth year programme should include spreading assessment out throughout the cycle.

They also favoured using a wider variety of methods to assess student performance such as project work, portfolios and presentations.

The ESRI says teachers strongly emphasised that assessments should continue to be marked externally to maintain a fair and transparent system.

It says those who took part also felt that senior cycle should embed life skills in the curriculum to better prepare young people for further/higher education, employment, and adult life.

The ESRI says suggestions included work experience placements and the development of new skills, such as online safety and handling social media.

According to the analysis some participants supported greater flexibility in terms of combining different elements of senior cycle programmes, such as being able to combine practical modules offered by the Leaving Certificate Applied programme with the more academic Leaving Cert established subjects.

Researchers with the ESRI said participants feel that such reforms would help to address current challenges, including a heavy workload and rote learning, which are seen as having a negative effect on students.

They say students were particularly vocal about how the pressures of senior cycle affected their stress levels.

When it came to highlighting positive aspects of senior cycle, the ESRI says teachers and parents pointed to the range of subjects available to study, as well as the value of transition year in providing a wide variety of learning experiences.

Students were also very positive about transition year. They highlighted positive relationships with their teachers and felt they were increasingly treated like adults after the transition to senior cycle.

However, students were more critical of senior cycle than teachers and parents.

Emer Smyth, one of the authors of the report, said the exercise showed the value of listening to young people on issues that affect their lives. She said the views of young people should be taken into account in any changes introduced.

The NCCA will now decide on priority areas for the development of senior cycle education including, it says, advice on the pace and scale of change, as well as longer term goals.

Last month, the council said it expected to be in a position to send an advisory report to the Minister for Education by early next year.