Junior Cycle reform: timeline and main points

Plans to overhaul curriculum have been cause of contention for years

TUI president Gerry Quinn (centre left) protesting in Dublin. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

TUI president Gerry Quinn (centre left) protesting in Dublin. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Timeline to Junior Cycle reform:

November 2011: National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) publishes report proposing a major reform of the Junior Cycle following consultations with stakeholders, and amid concern over the heavy emphasis on “teaching to the test” in secondary schools.

October 2012: Amid criticism of the NCCA plan by teacher unions, then minister for education and skills Ruairi Quinn announces a more radical shift: the abolition of state exams in the Junior Cycle and 100 per cent assessment by teachers.

April 2014: Unions begin industrial action, starting with policy of non-cooperation with planning measures.

November 2014: Mr Quinn’s successor Jan O’Sullivan reverts to 2011 plan, proposing state exams would go towards 60 per cent of marks and 40 per cent would come from portfolio work assessed by teachers.

December 2014: First of two one-day strikes held by unions. Boycotting of training and a lunchtime protest follows.

February 2015: Talks chairman Dr Pauric Travers proposes “an honourable settlement”: the new junior cycle will be split in two where one part would be marked by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) through the traditional format and the other part would come from teacher assessments, carried out in the second and third year of secondary school.

March 2015: Unions reject the Travers plan and fresh round of negotiations take place.

May 2015: Union leaders and department officials reach agreement on an amended Travers plan. Teachers will assess students in practical exercises alongside the state exams and the results will be recorded separately on a new Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA).

September 2015: Following the summer school break, balloting takes place.

Spring 2016: Initial classroom based assessments will be carried out for second-year students in English. Such assessments will be extended to Science and Business Studies the following year, rolling out to all other subjects by 2020.

September 2017: The JCPA will be issued for the first time, for the English component only, extending to other subjects by 2022.

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Key reforms in Junior Cycle plan:

- Students will study a maximum of 10 subjects, whereas currently there is no limit;

- English, Irish and Maths will remain compulsory;

- For every subject, teachers will carry out two structured classroom-based assessments, one each in second and third year;

- A written assessment task supervised by teachers in class will be completed in third year and marked by the State Examinations Commission;

- Written exams at the end of third year will be shorter - no longer than two hours;

- Schools will offer short courses in areas like computer coding, philosophy and Chinese language; these will involve 100 hours of learning - roughly half of an ordinary subject - and will be evaluated through classroom-based assessment.

- Up to 16 in-service training days will be provided to each teacher during the rollout of the reforms.

- Full-time teachers will have one less class a week to facilitate planning and meetings for the new curriculum, amounting to 22 hours of professional time annually.

- A new compulsory field of learning “Wellbeing” will be introduced, incorporating Physical Education; Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), including relationships and sexuality; and Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE);

- While this new course is developed, the existing CSPE syllabus will be retained until 2019 and taught in addition to the 10 subjects;

- A Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) will be issued to students by their schools; this will record learning arising from short courses; classroom assessments and the results of state exams.