Whole School Support and School Leadership
Welcome to the School Leaders’ section of the Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) website.
JCT seeks to support all school leaders as they implement the Framework for Junior Cycle (2015) in their schools.
Workshops are currently in progress for all school leaders in ETB and Community and Comprehensive sectors. Further elective and core workshops will follow.
I invite you to explore the site and in particular, you will find a copy of the PowerPoint slides, resources and handouts, which we used at the most recent workshop.
Materials to support presentations to parents can also be found in this section of the website.
Leadership support in JCT is provided by a National Deputy Director for School Leadership and a team of 25 current and recently retired school leaders.
I encourage all school leaders to ensure that their registration of teachers for CPD is current by visiting www.jctregistration.ie and registering teachers of English, Science and Business Studies.
If you require any further information, please contact JCT by way of our “JCT Support Enquiry Form”
Deputy Director (Acting) (School Leadership)
Meet the School Leadership Team
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Why are we changing the junior cycle, when the current system is working well?
There is significant evidence of the need to change junior cycle provision. For example, a significant number of first year students do not make progress in English and Mathematics (click here). A number of second year students disengage from their learning and in many instances, do not reconnect (click here). The experience of many third year students is dominated by preparation for the Junior Certificate examination where the emphasis is on rote learning and on rehearsing questions and answers for the examination (click here).
Research has also shown that the quality of students’ engagement with the school, with teachers and with learning is central to developing the skills and competences that are necessary for students in today’s world.
Furthermore, there is strong evidence that ongoing assessment of students’ progress and achievement over time, rather than the use of a once-off measure in the form of a final examination, can improve the quality of learning outcomes across the 3 years of lower secondary education. (Black and William 1998 click here). For all of these reasons, new approaches to curriculum and most particularly to assessment are necessary.
The Framework for Junior Cycle will enable schools to offer their students a 3 year junior cycle experience that is both a progression from primary education and a preparation for senior cycle and life-long learning. By placing students at the centre of the educational experience, the Department of Education and Skills want to ensure that junior cycle education will improve learning experiences and outcomes (p1 “A Framework for Junior Cycle”).
Schools will have greater autonomy in developing their own programmes for junior cycle. This will allow schools to cater to the specific needs of their students and the school’s context. It will support new forms of assessment which are designed to encourage better teaching and learning.
The curriculum will, as at present, be comprised of subjects, but there will also be short courses. Short courses offer schools the opportunity, through curriculum and assessment development, to connect to their communities, consolidate and strengthen aspects of student learning and to include new and different learning experiences and digital technology in junior cycle programmes. Nine short courses have been developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), 7 at level 3 and 2 at level 2 on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and these are available for schools to use in their new junior cycle programme. Schools will also be able to innovate and create their own short courses by way of an approved NCCA template.
In addition, subjects and short courses provide students with opportunities to develop a range of key skills. Key skills help learners develop knowledge, capabilities and attitudes that support them in learning how to learn and in taking responsibility for learning. Students will rarely develop these skills in isolation; the richer the learning experience the more coherent and integrated the development of the skills will be. Literacy and numeracy, because of their foundational nature and central importance across the curriculum, are the most significant of these skills, but they are not distinguished from the other skills.
The junior cycle curriculum focuses on 8 key skills:
Managing information and thinking
Q2. If junior cycle is changing what about senior cycle?
Developments at senior cycle are already underway. New specifications have already been prepared for the 3 science subjects, which will provide very good progression from the new junior cycle Science Specification. As with the junior cycle, developments at senior cycle see the further development of key skills and focuses on student-centred learning and new approaches to assessment.
As well as the sciences, Leaving Certificate Economics, Agricultural Science and Applied Mathematics are currently under review. Other subjects will be reviewed as necessary, in line with developments at junior cycle, over the coming years.
Q3. What are the implications of the revised junior cycle for my subject area?
Subjects continue to play an important role in the Framework for Junior Cycle. New curriculum specifications will be developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). The new curriculum specifications for 21 subjects will be outcomes based and in most cases, there will be common level specifications. The exceptions to this will be the subjects: English, Irish and Mathematics, where the specifications will be examined at 2 levels, Higher level and Ordinary level.
Irish and Mathematics will be designed for a minimum of 240 hours of engagement across the 3 years. Key skills, including literacy and numeracy (where appropriate) will, in the future, be embedded in the learning outcomes of every junior cycle subject and short course. Thus, teachers will be clear on where the key skills fit into a subject, short course or priority learning unit and how to build the skills into class planning, learning and assessment.
The specifications for subjects, Priority Learning Units and 9 short courses have been developed by the NCCA and are published on the NCCA’s Curriculum Online website (click here). These online curriculum specifications will include the learning outcomes, expectations for learners and examples of student work in each subject and short course along with a bank of assessment items for school and classroom use. The online facility will also include customised links that will give parents and students the opportunity to access these new specifications. Specifications are not only an important source of information for parents and students but, in addition, are a vital planning tool for teachers.
Schools will have flexibility when including other subjects in their programme. Students will study a maximum of 10 subjects. The specifications for these subjects will be designed for 200 hours of learner engagement during the 3 years of junior cycle. The 200 hours should be viewed as a minimum and does not preclude a school devoting more time where it is needed or desired. The amount of time devoted to a subject can vary from school to school according to school priorities. Schools will have the autonomy to determine which subjects, short courses and other learning opportunities will be offered in their schools
The new curriculum specifications for subjects are being introduced on a phased basis. This process began with the implementation of English in 2014. The specification for each subject will be available in schools a year prior to its implementation with first year students. The phased introduction is as follows:
|Subject||Year of introduction||Year of Certification|
|Science and Business Studies||2016||2019|
|Irish, Modern Languages and Art Craft & Design,||2017||2020|
|Mathematics, Home Economics, History, Music and Geography||2018||2021|
|Technology, Technical Graphics, Metalwork, Materials Technology (Wood) Religious Education, Jewish Studies Classical Studies, History||2019||2022|
Q4. What are the implications of the revised junior cycle for assessment in the different subject areas?
The junior certificate examination will be replaced by a new model of assessment that includes a final State Examinations Commission (SEC) examination in each subject, together with Classroom-Based Assessment (CBA) components. Short courses will be assessed through similar CBA’s in second and/or third year of the junior cycle.
Subject Specifications, Assessment Guidelines and an Assessment Toolkit will support learning, teaching and assessment in the revised junior cycle. These can be found on www.curriculumonline.ie
Subject specifications will have a number of features in common. They will:
be outcomes based
reflect a continuum of learning with a focus on learner progression
set out clear expectations for learners
As the new subjects are phased in, the following arrangements for assessment will be put in place.
Students will engage with a State certified external examination in June of third year. This will continue to be set administered and corrected by the SEC and will include an Assessment Task worth 10% of the final mark, completed by the student in class time during third year. There will be particular arrangements around the Assessment Task within the Technology subjects.
Students will engage with two Classroom-Based Assessments, one in second year and one in third year. CBA’s will provide students with opportunities to demonstrate their understanding and skills in a way that would not be possible in a formal exam. CBA’s will facilitate formative feedback to students during their engagement with the CBA and at the end of the process. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is responsible for the Assessment Guidelines, features of quality and annotated examples of student work in relation to the CBA’s.
Immediately after students complete each of the CBA’s (to a national timetable determined by the NCCA), a Subject Learning and Assessment Review (SLAR) meeting in held. Teachers will share and discuss samples of their assessment of student work and build common understanding about the quality of student learning. Teachers will be supported in this process with annotated national exemplars of student work. This process over time will help develop greater understanding of standards and ensure consistency of judgement about student performance.
These new assessment arrangements will be quality assured through the work of practicing teachers, the Inspectorate, the NCCA, SEC and ongoing Continuing Professional Development provided by Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT).
Q5. Does each individual subject have to address all 24 statements of learning?
The learning at the core of Junior Cycle is described in the twenty-four statements of learning. The twenty-four statements, underpinned by the eight principles, are central to planning for, the students’ experience of, and the evaluation of the school’s junior cycle programme. Schools will ensure that all statements of learning and the eight key skills feature in the programmes offered to their junior cycle students. The detailed learning outcomes will be clearly set out in subject and short course specifications.
Q6. Is it necessary to engage with the key skills in subjects where the specification is not yet published?
Yes. As teachers, we are responsible for the development of the key skills of all the students we teach, whether or not our subject specification is published.
As subject specifications are phased in, there will be support for the key skills particularly relevant to that subject, but in the meantime, all teachers should be exploring how they will embed key skills in their practice.
To this end, the Whole School Continuing Professional Development (CPD) provided by Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) includes a two-hour workshop for teachers on key skills.
JCT is also developing a number of strategies, supporting teaching and learning around key skills, which teachers and students can use in the classroom.
The NCCA has also developed toolkits relating to 6 of the key skills. (click here) Through engagement with SSE, your school has an existing literacy and numeracy policy with link teachers now being trained by the Professional Development Service for Teachers (click here).
Q7. Does the DES Inspectorate expect to see evidence of key skills development embedded in a teacher’s planning and practice?
Yes. The Inspectorate will expect to see evidence of key skills development in planning and practice. This is already happening in relation to the implementation in schools of the national literacy and numeracy strategy. The development of students’oracy, for example, is already well established, not just in English, but across all subject areas. This is also true of teachers who practice an investigative approach with their students, whether in maths, the sciences, history, geography etc.
Remember, key skills are very much about how the students participate and engage with learning. The emphasis is on the process of learning. The Inspectorate has cautioned against key skills moments, encouraging ongoing integration of the key skills into the classroom, short courses and other learning experiences.
This is a process that is starting and the Inspectorate is aware that it will develop over time. JCT will work closely with teachers and the Inspectorate and put in place any supports in relation to key skills tha t are necessary during the implementation of the Framework for Junior Cycle
Q9. Are short courses compulsory?
No. In the new junior cycle, the programme a student follows must be consistent with and allow access to the 24 statements of learning. Some schools are already including short courses in their junior cycle programme and are invited to embrace the flexibility that short courses and other learning experiences can provide.
Schools obviously need to plan very carefully how they will provide access to the 24 statements of learning for their students. When the school is inspected or evaluated, or perhaps when parents read the published programme, the failure to address the statements of learning will be evident and be brought to the attention of the school.
When the question ‘what will be different about the new junior cycle?’ is raised, one of the responses is, that it offers schools exciting new possibilities to plan learning programmes that are varied and interesting for students. By providing a range of subjects and short courses selected to appeal to and challenge students, there is a greater likelihood of students engaging more fully in their learning and assessment.
Q10. What training and resources will be made available to schools and teachers?
In the 2013/2014 school year, there was a focus on supporting school leaders and teachers as they prepared for the introduction of English and a new junior cycle programme in 2014
As schools embark on the design, planning and development of approaches to the Framework for Junior Cycle, JCT will make available support materials, which supplement and draw on materials that have already been developed by schools themselves. These will focus on the fundamentals of the new Framework, including its principles, key skills and statements of learning. Over time, JCT personnel will also become available to schools to work with whole staff, school leaders, subject departments, individual teachers and other education partners, on areas which schools identify for further development.
It is recognised that school leaders are key partners in the school change process. School principals and deputy principals will be responsible for providing appropriate leadership as their school introduces the Framework. To assist in changes already, or about to get underway, JCT will make Continuing Professional Development (CPD) available to school leaders in areas such as, change management, curriculum leadership and planning, including short courses and priority learning units, timetabling and educational assessment, including moderation.
As various aspects of the Framework are introduced in schools, teachers will be invited to avail of CPD opportunities in areas such as, teaching and learning strategies, short courses, priority learning units and subject specifications. The new focus on assessment, including moderation, will be a challenge for schools and will be a main focus of CPD. The Framework contains a schedule for the phased implementation of subject specifications. The CPD programme will prioritise subject teachers for engagement in CPD as each subject is introduced. Teachers will generally be provided with 3 full days’ CPD during school time.
Q11. Who was consulted about this revised junior cycle?
On April 21st 2010, the Minister for Education launched the consultation process on junior cycle reform. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) produced a document entitled Innovation and Identity: Ideas for a new Junior Cycle (click here) and invited feedback from teachers, parents and all interested bodies.
A large volume of submissions were made by teachers, parents and a variety of interested parties and a list of these individual submissions can be viewed online (click here). In February 2011, the NCCA published a Junior Cycle Developments Innovation and Identity: Summary of Consultation Findings’ which can also be accessed online (click here). This consultation process was a cornerstone in the final formulation of A Framework for Junior Cycle.
The NCCA also gathered feedback through its work with network schools which trialled aspects of the new junior cycle. Teachers can still give feedback on the draft subject specifications which will be presented one year prior to their introduction for first year students.