In the classroom – junior cycle

This supplement provides a range of readings which can support teachers in bringing history learning outcomes to life

The new junior cycle history specification was introduced to the classroom in September 2018 and will become a core subject for all students in September 2020. The specification aims to “enable students to develop the necessary conceptual understanding, disciplinary skills and subject knowledge to investigate the actions of people in the past and to come to a deeper understanding of the human condition”.

The ‘Decade of Centenaries’ and how we commemorate the significant events, issues and people from the creation story of our nation has provided schools with a renewed sense of our collective history. As we move towards the culmination of the decade of centenaries, we have further opportunities to develop our students’ awareness of their historical identity and their understanding of the impact of the actions of people in the past.

The War of Independence from its onset was driven by the aspiration that the Republic proclaimed would be the Republic realised. The development of our students’ regard for their cultural inheritance is furthered by this analysis of the events of 1920 from our current-day perspective. The publication of this supplement provides a range of readings which can support teachers in bringing the history learning outcomes to life in their classroom. We have highlighted some of the learning opportunities below.

Learning Outcome 2.4: Students should be able to examine the rise and impact of nationalism and unionism in Ireland, including key events between 1911 and 1923.


This supplement provides a timeline of events from 1920. This timeline gives a sense of how the actions of people throughout Ireland impacted not only the homesteads of those whose lives were fundamentally altered and lost, but also the homesteads and hearts of people across the globe through the power of their stories. In the junior cycle history classroom, this timeline could provide a clear overview for students to be able to identify the key events in 1920 as part of their examination of the rise and impact of nationalism and unionism in Ireland between 1911 and 1923.

Ronan McGreevy’s comprehensive timeline of 1920 provides an excellent exemplar for our students of the necessity of chronological awareness in acquiring the ‘big picture’ of the past, exemplifying the ability to demonstrate chronological awareness by creating and maintaining timelines to locate personalities, issues and events in their appropriate historical eras (LO 1.10)

Learning Outcome 2.9: Students will be able to explain how the experience of women in Irish society changed during the 20th-century.

In this supplement, there are opportunities for students to develop their understanding and also their ability to explain how women experienced this time of great unrest. In Sinéad McCoole’s overview of Cumann na mBan, we gain insights into the complicated and changing role members had to play. She provides awareness for students of the varied experiences of the women involved, such as carrying guns in their handbags, administering the counter-state and providing ‘safe houses’, but also the challenges they faced in having to leave their friends in Cumann na mBan to work for Collins.

By sharing her research on how violence against women was a feature of the War of Independence, Prof Linda Connolly’s piece helps to extend students’ understanding of the brutality experienced by women in what became known as the ‘Year of Terror”. She shares how women were targets of terror in raids by the Black and Tans but were also often just caught in the crossfire. Mary McAuliffe’s piece on civil disobedience touches on women’s experience of hair-shearing as a method of intimidation against forming friendships with RIC or military.

Learning Outcome 2.5: Students should be able to identify the causes, course and consequences of the Northern Ireland Troubles and their impact on North-South and Anglo-Irish relations.

The year 1920 had a profound impact on our nation, with the introduction of partition and the concept of a separate Northern Ireland. Cormac Moore’s overview of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 provides a clear insight into the short-lived act that still has implications for our political discourse and cultural identity in 2020.

Andy Bielenberg gives an insight into the origins of the Provisional IRA practice of Disappearances, with 100 known cases between 1920 and 1923 casting a long shadow in the Northern Ireland Troubles. Students can trace the origins of many of the practices of Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA during the Troubles to this period through Mary McAuliffe's piece on mass civil disobedience and the War of Independence. It can also support students to develop their ability to make connections and comparisons between people, issues and events in different places and historical eras (LO 1.11)

Classroom-Based Assessment 1: The Past in My Place (CBA 1) provides an opportunity for our students to conduct a structured enquiry into their local or family history. The broad range of topics outlined by the historians in this supplement on the events of 1920 could be used to illustrate to students how personal historical curiosity can inspire varied research enquiries. The events of 1920 can support students in being able to make connections between local, personal or family history and wider national and/ or international personalities, issues and events (from Strand 2, the History of Ireland) (LO 2.11), which is of particular importance for CBA1. Liz Gillis' piece on Bloody Sunday gives a strong example of the power of a clear enquiry question to focus historical research.

Classroom-Based Assessment 2: A Life in Time (CBA 2) gives students an opportunity to research a figure from the past that is of interest to them and to write a historical assessment of this person, or an aspect of this person's life or career. The accounts of the actions of individuals such as Tom Barry, Kevin Barry and Terence MacSwiney could provide exemplars of written historical records in the form of articles. The broad range of individuals treated of and involved in this 'Year of Terror' could provide food for thought for a student undertaking research on an individual from Ireland for CBA 2.

This guide was provided by the Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) history team. For more information on junior cycle history and supports available for teachers, visit