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Guide to the New Junior Cycle

Our children face many challenges as they live their lives now and as they face the future. Their world is changing at a rapid rate and curriculum must adapt, in order to best prepare children for their future and their ability to take on these challenges.

The Department of Education and Skills has responded to requests from students, teachers and parents for change and has created a Junior Cycle curriculum that places the student at its core. The centrality of the student is best expressed through the twenty-four statements of learning which all post-primary schools will engage with as part of their Junior Cycle developments. These statements describe what your child should know, understand and value, having participated in Junior Cycle education.

There is also a greater focus on developing skills needed for life beyond the classroom and on nurturing wellbeing.

If your child is entering First-year in September 2015, what will be different for him / her over the coming three years?

He / she will study English following a new subject-specification.

Through it, teachers will encourage your child’s enjoyment of English as they follow three strands of learning: oral-language, reading and writing. The English Specification mirrors that of the language curriculum for primary schools. This affords a significant continuity of experience for your child as he / she makes the transition from primary to post-primary school. Your child is further supported by the development of a sub-set of learning outcomes for First Year to take account of and to provide for continuity with learning in primary education.

Assessment in English
Your child’s assessment in English will include a blend of examinations and classroom based assessments. He / she will sit an examination in English set by the State Examinations Commission (June 2018) that will be no more than two-hours long. They will also engage with a variety of Classroom Based Assessments in Second and Third year. Students will, for example, be offered the opportunity to compile a collection of their texts in a variety of genres and choose a number of pieces to present for assessment.

Other Subjects
Your child will continue with the other Junior Certificate subjects as at the moment and they will receive a Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) to include English in 2018, along with their Junior Certificate results in all other subjects. The entry class-cohort of 2015 / 2016 will be the second such group of students to receive both a JCPA and Junior Certificate results.
This period of transition will continue until 2022 by which time all subject specifications will have been introduced and students will receive a JCPA only.

Teaching and Learning
Students will encounter teaching methodologies and approaches to learning that will actively engage them across the curriculum. Your child will also be encouraged to engage with eight Key Skills: Communicating, Staying well, Working with others, Managing Myself, Being Literate, Being Numerate, Managing Information and Thinking and Being Creative.

They will experience these curriculum developments across all subject areas.

Reporting to parents
You will also receive a richer quality of reporting over the three years, initially in English where the Classroom Based Assessments will be reported to you using a template in development by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

Short Courses
Some schools may offer Short Courses e.g. Coding, Chinese Language and Culture or Digital Media Literacy, artistic performance and many more. They are designed for approximately 100 hours of student engagement and offer exciting learning possibilities for your child. Schools can teach any of the nine Short Courses developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment or design their own according to a national template.

You can check with your post-primary school whether or not Short Courses may be offered to your child. Your child could start these courses in Second-year, so do enquire. If followed these will also be included in your child’s Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement.

Other areas of learning that your child engaged in throughout their Junior Cycle, will be reported on in it also. These could include, for example, an ICT project or participation in extracurricular activities offered by the school.

There is a new Junior Cycle pathway for students with specific learning needs called Level 2 Learning Programmes.

Wellbeing will become a core part of your child’s Junior Cycle experience. It includes Physical Education (PE), Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE), Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) - other areas may be included over time.

Continuing Professional Development
A dedicated support service, Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) will provide extensive training and support to teachers during the period of implementation. JCT will also update National Parents Council (Primary) Trainers, ensuring that primary-school parents are kept up to date with developments.

Parents can also learn about Junior Cycle from two websites in particular, Junior Cycle for Teachers and Curriculum Online.

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