In defence of Junior Cycle reforms

 

Sir, – I am writing in response to Sean Keaveny’s letter in whichthe author calls for a “root and branch” review of junior cycle education (November 22nd). There was one. It culminated in the publication in 2015 of the Framework for Junior Cycle, which is currently being phased into schools.

The framework is the result of extensive research, consultation, development and piloting over many years. The revised Junior Cycle puts the student at the centre of the learning process, and few could argue that this is not the right thing to do. Indeed, complementing this, the reduced focus on one externally assessed examination as a means of assessing students has increased the prominence given to teachers’ professional judgment in our education system. These are exciting developments that acknowledge the central role of students in their own learning and the expertise and skills within our teaching profession.

It’s not a case though of having “thrown the baby out with the bath water” as aspects of the previous system have been maintained. Notwithstanding, that system had its flaws. Just one of the more serious was the fact that, in many instances, the “tail” (examinations) was wagging the “dog” (learning). As a result, real quality learning in many classrooms was being stifled.

This situation was not sustainable, for all kinds of reasons. Change had to happen. The broader approach to assessment introduced within the Framework for Junior Cycle represents one such change. Change, at the best of times, is not easy, and in education it also takes time.

Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) was established as a schools’ support service of the Department of Education and Skills to support schools in embedding the new framework. Our advisers are all seconded teachers who have extensive teaching experience and know only too well the challenges of school life. Our associates, who work with us on a part-time basis, in between their day-to-day teaching commitments, are living and breathing the Junior Cycle in their schools.

Our continuing professional development is, therefore, developed for teachers, by teachers, and to the very highest of standards. Contrary to the unfounded, sweeping and sound-bite type criticism in the letter of November 22nd, feedback in respect of our training, from thousands of teachers, over multiple years, including school leaders, is very positive. – Yours, etc,

PÁDRAIG KIRK,

Director,

Junior Cycle for Teachers

Schools’ Support Service,

C/o Monaghan Education

Centre,

Monaghan.