David King
David King
Acting Team Leader

In September 2016, the Specification for Junior Cycle Science was introduced in schools. The Specification is based on 46 learning outcomes. This represents a fundamental shift from a listing of specific content knowledge to a description of what the learner should be able to do at the end of three years of learning.

In the Specification, the Nature of Science is central. It encompasses understanding about how science works, investigating, communicating in science and science and society. There is a strong focus on scientific inquiry. The Nature of Science and Key Skills of Junior Cycle permeate the 4 contextual strands of Earth and Space, Chemical World, Physical World and Biological World. Aspects of the Nature of Science will be incorporated in every lesson. The learning outcomes from the Nature of Science strand are realised through the content and activities of the contextual strands

Science will become a more holistic enterprise in which learners engage in the variety of science practices. Learners will develop as more informed citizens, equipped to evaluate arguments related to critical, technical, ethical and environmental issues. Subject knowledge will remain a cornerstone of Junior Cycle Science. However, it will be bolstered by the understanding, skills and values developed through inclusive and collaborative learning activities designed by teachers.

To support teachers in this process, the JCT Science Team began CPD provision for teachers in January 2016. The focus of our core workshops is to support teachers in their engagement with learning outcomes and assessment in Junior Cycle Science. JCT also supports teachers through elective CPD, in collaboration with our partners Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Science Gallery. Resources and supports for core and elective CPD can be found on our website.

The JCT Science Team will develop a variety of onsite, online and ongoing CPD based on the expressed needs of teachers. Our website contains a comprehensive suite of interactive resources designed to support teachers’ enactment of Junior Cycle Science.

If you require any further information, please contact me or provide detail on the
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Latest News

Roll out of Science CPD Day 2

The JCT Science team are delighted to announce that roll out of Science CPD Day 2 is commencing from 2nd December. This year, a new method of delivery is being arranged, whereby schools are closing for the day and participants will attend a venue in which subject teachers from a number of neighbouring schools will be clustered together. This is replacing the model from last year whereby teachers travelled to their nearest education centre for their CPD. Letters of information will be sent to schools to inform you of your dates and venues. Please also keep an eye on the calendar to your right. We look forward to working with you again this year!

Added Dates for CPD Day 1

Extra workshops are being organised for those teachers who missed their Science CPD Day 1 workshop in the 2015/2016 school year. These workshops are commencing on 28th November and will run over the following 3 weeks, with a few in the new year. Teachers who are registered with JCT should note that letters of invitation have been sent to your schools with information regarding venues and dates.

SFI/JCT Evening Workshops

Science Foundation Ireland and ESERO are delighted to partner with JCT to provide a series of evening workshops exploring aspects of the new Junior Cycle Science Specification. These workshops will help you to develop students investigative and communication skills within your science classroom.

The content of the workshops is the same as the SFI/JCT Saturday workshops delivered in April/May 2016. Please click here to register.

Science Assessment Guidelines

The Junior Cycle Framework 2015 document outlines the Junior Cycle. The Science Specification is available on the NCCA Curriculum Online website. The Science Assessment Guidelines are also on Curriculum Online.

28 January 2016 - First JCT Science meetings

JCT Science meetings with teachers in Education Centres began on Thursday 28 January. All letters of invitation have been sent to schools. Times and locations of teacher meetings are set out in the calendar on this page. Meetings continue until Friday 11 March.

The Junior Cycle Framework 2015 document outlines the Junior Cycle. The Science Specification is available on the NCCA Curriculum Online website. The Science Specification will be introduced in schools in September 2016. For the first time, CPD precedes the introduction of reform.

In JCT Science meetings, teachers work with the Framework and the Science Specification. A range of inquiry activities in Earth and Space is developed. Formative Assessment practices are modeled. Teachers work together with the Learning Outcomes and collaborative planning is encouraged.

Teacher feedback at these meetings will influence the nature and design of future CPD.

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Science Newsletter Issue 2 Oct 16
Science Newsletter Issue 2 Oct 16

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1. What has changed in Junior Cycle Science?

    The change in Junior Cycle Science is part of the overall reform of the Junior Cycle curriculum. Junior Cycle aims to place students at the centre of the educational experience in providing a broad and balanced education that is both a progression from primary education and a preparation for Senior Cycle and life-long learning. The changes you and your students will experience in the Science classroom will be similar to those in other subjects.

    The changes in Science are detailed in the subject specification for Junior Cycle Science. In the specification, the learning to be experienced by students of Science is described in 46 learning outcomes spread across five strands. Four of these are contextual strands:

    • Earth and Space

    • Chemical World

    • Physical World

    • Biological World

    The outgoing 2003 Science syllabus made strides in transforming our Science classrooms. Students were given opportunities to develop scientific knowledge, skills and attitudes through scientific inquiry. The new Science Specification aims to build on this. It places a strong emphasis on how science works; carrying out investigations; communicating in science; and developing an appreciation of the role and contribution of science and scientists to society. This emphasis is embodied in the unifying strand, The Nature of Science. The learning outcomes from the Nature of Science are realised through the contextual strands. The Nature of Science should be at the core of every learning experience that happens in our classrooms.

  • 2. What are the changes in assessment for Junior Cycle Science?

    The most significant change in the new Junior Cycle is in the area of assessment. A dual approach to assessment, involving classroom based assessment across the three years, complemented by summative assessment elements, will be a key feature of the new Junior Cycle. To find out more about these changes, go to the assessment section of our website.

  • 3. Why have we gone from a Science syllabus to a Science Specification? What’s the difference?

    A specification is a broader document than a syllabus. A syllabus contains the aims and rationale for the course, along with a description of the learning outcomes and overall structures for assessment.

    The Science Specification outlines how the learning in Junior Cycle Science is linked to particular statements of learning and key skills in the Framework for Junior Cycle. It provides a rationale and aims for Junior Cycle Science, as well as a description of each of the strands and its learning outcomes. It also includes information about and a rationale for ongoing assessment and reporting in Science, including assessment arrangements for the JCPA. The Science specification is designed to be used as a guide for collaborative and classroom planning.

    A full copy of the Junior Cycle Science Specification can be accessed here

  • 4. What about Coursework A and Coursework B?

    Coursework A and Coursework B cease to exist once the Junior Cycle Science Specification is introduced. For more details on assessment for the JCPA, see our assessment section.

  • 5. How do the Learning Outcomes on the new course differ from what we already have?

    The 2003 Science syllabus is based on 188 learning outcomes, elements of which were designated at higher level. These were more topic specific, achieved over the short term and based mostly on knowledge and skills. The 46 learning outcomes in the new Science Specification are broader and apply at a common level. They incorporate student understanding, skills and values and emphasise the Nature of Science throughout.

    For example, if we compare students’ learning of ‘density’ in the 2003 syllabus to the new Science Specification:

    Syllabus Learning outcomes Focus on
    2003 revised Science Syllabus (Junior Certificate) Students should be able to - measure mass and volume of a variety of solids and liquids and hence determine their densities - investigate flotation for a variety of solids and liquids in water and other liquids, and relate the results of this investigation to their densities Knowledge and skills
    2015 Science Specification (Junior Cycle) Students should be able to - identify and measure/calculate mass, volume, density1 .. - investigate patterns and relationships between physical observables2 - select and use appropriate measuring instruments3 - produce and select data4 - appreciate how scientists work5 Understanding, skills and values including Nature of Science

    1.Part of Physical World Learning outcome 2
    2.Physical World Learning Outcome 4
    3.Physical World Learning Out 1
    4.Nature of Science Learning Outcome 4
    5.Nature of Science Learning Outcome 1

  • 6. The old course had more learning outcomes…is this course shorter?

    Science in the outgoing course typically had a time allocation of 240-270 hours. In the new Junior Cycle, Science is to be taught for a minimum of 200 hours. Within each strand, content areas and skills have been selected that all students should engage with while maintaining a balance between depth and breadth. Some content that was explicitly stated in the outgoing Science syllabus is not explicitly stated in the Specification. However, ‘Science develops by people pursuing their individual interests and this specification affords a reasonable degree of freedom for teachers and students to make their own choices and pursue their interests’ (Science Specification, p.17).

    Let’s consider an example of what this means for you and your students. If your students were experiencing learning linked to eclipses (Earth and Space Learning Outcome 4), then they may choose to investigate the concept of light travelling in straight lines, even though light is not explicitly stated in any of the contextual strand learning outcomes. Further, students may develop investigative skills during this learning that transfer to other areas and are revisited as their learning is layered. This is one of the many examples of the affordances offered by the new Specification for teacher autonomy in the Science classroom.

  • 7. How can we ensure common learning in Science when the Learning Outcomes are so broad?

    Whilst the specification in Junior Cycle allows flexibility for teachers, it does not give total freedom. As you begin to unpack the learning outcomes of the contextual strands, you will see that most of the understanding implicit in them is well defined. As such, there is a common level of understanding that all students will be expected to attain and demonstrate through multiple modes of ongoing and summative assessments. The flexibility lies in how you develop students’ skills and attitudes in arriving at this understanding. There is autonomy for teachers to link the contextual strands with the Nature of Science in a number of ways. This is best explained with an example:

    In the Earth and Space strand, the 4th learning outcome says that ‘students should be able to develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe predictable phenomena observable on Earth, including seasons, lunar phases, and eclipses of the sun and moon’. From this learning outcome, it is reasonable to assume that students would need to understand the arrangement of the Earth, sun and moon and how the position of the Earth relative to the Sun is responsible for the seasons. But how might they arrive at this understanding? This is where the flexibility of the Nature of Science comes in. You may decide that you want your students to arrive at this understanding through producing data from an Earth/Sun model (Nature of Science Learning Outcome 4), or you may have your students research the reasons for the seasons and communicate their findings on a poster (Nature of Science Learning Outcomes 6 and 7). Alternatively, you may combine both of these, or consider another approach. It is you the teacher who is in control of how you facilitate your students to arrive at this understanding and the types of skills and values they develop as they do. Students develop a common understanding no matter the approach adopted.

  • 8. If the Junior Cycle Science course is changing, what about Senior Cycle?

    Students will be coming into Senior Cycle with deeper levels of scientific understanding, skills and values thanks to the learning they will experience in the new Junior Cycle classroom. This will not only support them for Senior Cycle Science, but also help to empower them to become lifelong learners.

    Developments at Senior Cycle are also underway. New specifications are being developed for Physics, Chemistry and Biology. As with the Junior Cycle, developments at Senior Cycle will encourage further development of key skills and focus on student-centred learning and new approaches to assessment.

    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.

  • 9. Where is the link to the Primary Science curriculum?

    There is a focus on the continuum of Science education whereby transferability of similar scientific skills is now visible between the primary and secondary curriculum. There is also considerable overlap in terms of strands and strand units between the 2 sectors. Inquiry approaches are being advocated by both sectors as appropriate to Science education. More information about the Primary Science Curriculum can be found by clicking here

  • 10. Will additional classroom resources be required to teach this Specification?

    There are no specified new resources required. The specification provides flexibility for teachers to work within a local context, and according to their preferred pedagogy and so the question of additional resources should be agreed through collaboration with department members.

  • 11. What supports are available for Science teachers? Are they available as Gaeilge?

    JCT will provide you with a multitude of supports. Our approach to supporting Science teachers is one that will be onsite, online and ongoing.


    Core CPD is provided for all teachers. Elective CPD opportunities will also be provided in collaboration with our partners Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Science Gallery. All materials from our core and elective workshops will be available under ‘CPD supports’ in the Science section of our website. We will also endeavour to provide in-school support to Science departments.


    The Science section of our website will provide supports for teachers in the following areas:

    Resources: a range of ideas around the Nature of Science, contextual strand learning outcomes and guides for developing your students’ scientific understanding, skills and values.

    Assessment: up to the minute information and guidance in relation to ongoing assessment in Junior Cycle Science, including assessment for the JCPA.

    News and events: information about upcoming CPD opportunities, exciting developments in the world of Science and links to our most recent JCT Science newsletters

    Planning: resources and guidelines on planning for Junior Cycle Science

    We also aim to engage online with Science teachers in various ways such as webinars, regular email newsletters, live Q&A sessions, social media and others.


    Our support for you will not begin and end in an education centre. We endeavour to be responsive to your needs and to continue our engagement with you now, and throughout the process of implementation of the Science specification over the coming years. We are here to listen to your concerns and CPD needs and look forward to working with you to realise the exciting aims of Junior Cycle Science.

    Many JCT resources, both onsite and online, will be available in Irish. Core CPD for Science teachers from Gaeltacht schools and Gaelscoileanna will be provided through the medium of Irish.

  • 12. Will there be additional supports in terms of time?

    Science teachers will be provided with 8 hours of time during the first year of implementation of the Specification in 2016/17. This time will be provided through additional paid substitution hours allocated to the school. From 2017 onwards, teachers will be provided with weekly amounts of professional time for Junior Cycle related activities through a reduction in teaching time (40 minutes per school week for a full-time teacher), as outlined in the appendix to the joint statement on principles and implementation of Junior Cycle reform in July 2015.

  • 13. How do I embrace Junior Cycle principles, statements of learning and key skills while I’m teaching a Science class?

    The key skills are embedded in the learning outcomes. This means that if you plan and teach from the learning outcomes, you have already begun to develop the key skills. For example, the key skills of ‘communicating’ and ‘managing information and thinking’ are embedded in learning outcomes such as ‘research different energy sources; formulate and communicate an informed view of ways that current and future energy needs on Earth can be met’ (Earth and Space Learning Outcome 6).

    Key skills really come to life in the methodologies you use. For example, while ‘working with others’ is a key skill, the techniques we use to get students working together; the extent to which students have clear guidance on what they’re expected to do; how long they have to do it; acceptable behaviour etc. will all contribute to how well they develop the skill of working with others.

    There are 24 statements of learning in the Framework for Junior Cycle, which are underpinned by the 8 principles for Junior Cycle. The school must ensure that students have opportunities to access all 24 statements across their Junior Cycle education. Of these 24 statements, 8 are set out in the specification as being specifically relevant to the subject of Science. These 8 statements of learning are realised in the 46 learning outcomes of the Science specification.

  • 14. How can we communicate changes to parents?

    Click here to go to the Assessment section of our website, where if you scroll down, you will see a section called ‘Information for Parents’.

  • 15. Do I really need to unpack all the learning outcomes?

    The learning outcomes were explored as part of CPD Day 1 where it became apparent that “unpacking” the outcomes into understanding, skills and values assisted teachers in bringing the learning outcomes to the classroom as well as making the planning process more manageable. It also helps you monitor your students’ progression towards achieving the learning outcomes. This is a process you might consider approaching collaboratively as a department. Remember it is crucial that you keep the explanations of the action verbs (develop, classify, describe etc.) at hand when unpacking. Why not start with unpacking those learning outcomes you might hope to include early in first year including those Nature of Science learning outcomes that you will address? Remember – there are a number of supports available for you under Planning in the Science section of our website (click here).

  • 16. Where can I get ideas for the new science course?

    The new specification provides an opportunity to explore new ideas and teaching methodologies. Ideas are often developed in collaboration with other teachers in your school as you are the experts on your student cohort. Opportunities to share ideas with teachers from other schools are also valuable. You will have the opportunity to network with other teachers at your CPD days and elective opportunities also give an opportunity to both network and gather ideas. The JCT science website also provides links and ideas.


This section contains supports and information related to ongoing planning for Junior Cycle Science.

  • > Professional Time
    Click to open/close

    All Science teachers are entitled to 8 hours of professional time in 2016/17, and a reduction in teaching time from September 2017 onward as outlined in DES Circular 0024/2016. Here, we provide some suggestions for things you might consider as part of the range of collaborative professional activities you will engage in during this time.

    Suggestions for Use of 8 hours Professional Time

    Professional Time 2016/2017

    Suggestions for Use of 22 hours Professional Time

    Professional Time from 2017

  • > Planning Videos
    Click to open/close

    In 2015/2016 JCT worked with teachers on CPD Day 1 to develop ideas in how to plan using the learning outcomes of the new Science Specification. In 2016/2017 the Specification is introduced in schools. Planning with the learning outcomes is very new to teachers so JCT Science have developed this resource which shows the first steps in planning by a group of science teachers. It provides an example of subject group planning and 5 individual teacher plans. Later in 2017 the resource will be developed to give greater focus on the evidence of learning.

    Introduction to JC Science Planning
    (3:45 min)

    Planning Video 1
    (5:52 min)

    Planning Video 2
    (6:18 min)

    Planning Video 3
    (5:13 min)

    Planning Video 4
    (5:24 min)

    Planning Video 5
    (5:42 min)

  • > Planning Documents
    Click to open/close

    The documents below have been designed to support teachers and Science subject departments. You might like to use these in planning for the introduction of the Specification for Junior Cycle Science.

    Action Verbs

    A list of action verbs as defined in the Science Specification

    Starting Collaborative Planning - Contextual Strands

    Starting Collaborative Planning
    Contextual Strands
    Download Word version here

    Starting Collaborative Planning - Nature of Science strand

    Starting Collaborative Planning
    Nature of Science
    Download Word version here

    Subject Action Plan

    Subject Action Plan Download Word version here

    Sharing Learning Methodologies

    Sharing Learning Methodologies
    Download Word version here

    Unit Planning Table

    Unit Planning Table
    (Video 1)
    Download Word version here

    Classroom Term Plan Blank

    Classroom Term Plan
    (Video 5)
    Download PowerPoint version here

    LO Poster (black & white)

    LO Poster (black & white)
    (Video 5)
    Download PowerPoint version here

  • > Working with LOs
    Click to open/close

    In 2016/17, eight hours professional time is available to teachers of Science, of which a maximum of 6 hours may be delivered via school closure and the balance through paid substitution hours. Some of this time can be utilised for teacher-led CPD sessions for junior cycle Science planning.

    In this section, you can access a guided presentation on working with the learning outcomes of the Junior Cycle Science Specification. There are a number of indicated points at which you can pause the video and engage with the suggested activities. This video can be viewed individually or, if you like, you can watch and carry out the activities as a subject department. The video also comes with a facilitator’s guide and the associated PowerPoint slides.

    Working with Science LOs - Guiding principles
    (14:44 min)

    Working with LOs - Facilitator's guide

    Working with LOs - Facilitator’s guide
    Click on image to view PDF

    Working with LOs - Slides for department meeting

    Working with LOs - Slides for department meeting
    Click image to download Slides


This section contains information related to the ongoing and summative assessment of Junior Cycle Science

Classroom-Based Assessment

Science Assessment timeline 2018-2019

Science Assessment timeline
Click on image to view

Science Assessment Calendar 2018 2019

Science Assessment Calendar
Click on image to view

Features of Quality

Features of Quality
Click on image to view

Completing the EEI

Completing the EEI
Click on image to view

Completing the SSI

Completing the SSI
Click on image to view

Assessment for JCPA - Video

Glossary of Assessment Terms and Acronyms PDF

Glossary of Assessment Terms and Acronyms

Science Assessment for JCPA

Assessment of Science for the JCPA

Assessment of Science for the JCPA - Infographic

Assessment of Science for the JCPA - Infographic

JCT Science and Formative Assessmen

JCT Science and Formative Assessment

Formative assessment in science classrooms

Formative Assessment in Science Classrooms

Think Pair Share Explained

Think Pair Share Explained

  • >
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This section contains some initial information and resources to support you in engaging with the Learning Outcomes of the Specification for Junior Cycle Science.

Reading science some strategies for science classrooms

Reading Science - Some Strategies for Science Classrooms

Tools to scaffold students in engaging with science text

Tools to Scaffold Students in Engaging with Science Text

Introduction to the JC Science Specification PDF

Introduction to the Junior Cycle Science Specification - Infographic

Science Specification in Numbers

The Science Specification in Numbers - Infographic

Introducing the Junior Cycle Science Specification - Video

Facts About the Nature of Science

Facts About the Nature of Science - Infographic

Nature of Science in your classrom

The Nature of Science in Your Classroom

Introducing the Nature of Science Strand - Video

Thoughts on IBL

Thoughts on Inquiry Based Learning

Thoughts on Inquiry Teaching and Learning

Thoughts on Inquiry Teaching and Learning - Infographic

Thoughts on Inquiry Teaching and Learning - Video

Teacher learning for new material

A website directory to support teacher learning for new material

A guide to the modelling process - Video

Action verbs

A list of action verbs as defined in the Science Specification

  • >
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