17 January, 2014 - Statement from the Department of Education & Skills on the conclusion of the first meeting of the JCSA National Working Group

The Department of Education & Skills has outlined a range of measures relating to the new JCSA or Junior Cycle Student Award aimed at ensuring a gradual but effective transition to the new way of learning and teaching.

Talks between officials from the DES, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), teacher unions, management bodies, school leaders and parents took place this afternoon (Friday 17th January). 

The new JCSA aims to put students rather than exams at the centre of the first three years of second level education.  Work has been on-going with the education partners on the new framework since it was announced 15 months ago.  However, several months were lost due to industrial relations issues. 

The new JCSA is a radical overhaul of the existing Junior Certificate, the first major changes in 25 years, and will see a move away from a narrowly focused terminal exam in June of 3rd year, to a more school-based continuous approach that will underpin teaching and learning. 

The Minister for Education & Skills and his officials acknowledge, however, the concerns that have been raised by some teachers, parents and management bodies.  Today the DES outlined a number of changes to the implementation of the JCSA which should address these concerns. 

The discussions focused on four main areas:

1.   Pace of change

2.   Training for teachers

3.   Resources for schools

4.   Assessment and quality assurance

Pace of change:

  • English is the only subject which will change in September 2014.  Short courses can be introduced from September, but only in schools which want to introduce them – they will not be compulsory. All other subjects remain the same as in the current Junior Certificate.
  • The new Science curriculum will begin for 1st year students in September 2015; it will be the only new subject introduced that year, rather than the three subjects originally envisaged. 
  • In September 2016, Irish and Business Studies will be introduced. Standardised testing in English and Maths will take place for 2nd years in the Spring of 2017 (and not the previous year, as originally planned). 
  • Other subjects will be rolled out as per the timetable below. 
  • Overall, the JCSA will be fully reformed by 2022, and not 2020 as originally envisaged.   
  • Option of a review after three years of operation to decide if adjustment to timetable of change is necessary.

Training for teachers:

  • English teachers will receive an extra 1.5 days of training or continuous professional development (CPD); this means English teachers will have a minimum of 4.5 days training. 
  • All other subject teachers will receive a minimum of 4 days in service training for each subject.
  • All schools will have the equivalent of one full day of CPD annually for each year of the roll-out of the JCSA.  Schools can close to facilitate this CPD for all teaching staff.

Resources for Schools:

  • The Department is committed to fully resourcing the new JCSA. 
  • School-based components of the new JSCA, like project work and oral presentations, will replace house exams
  • School based assessment will take place within the agreed times for subjects i.e.  no extra work for teachers
  • A sub-group made up of teacher unions, management bodies and the DES will meet next week to focus on issues such as posts/duties relating to assessment and the resources that will be needed.

Assessment & Quality Assurance: 

  • The DES logo will be on the JSCA certificate.
  • Teachers will be provided with examples of students’ work and marking schemes for assessment purposes.
  • Training will focus on the new ways of assessing students’ work in the years before school-based component and final assessment.
  • A sub-group will convene next week to examine other proposals from teachers and management.

Minister Ruairí Quinn T.D. is committed to taking on board the outcomes of the Working Group’s deliberations.

“The main focus of all of our deliberations has to be on our young people.  We are reforming junior cycle in order to allow them to achieve their full potential.  I believe the JCSA will do just that and I am confident that alongside our teachers, managers and parents we can roll-out the new JCSA in a careful and considered way,” said Minister Quinn.


Note for Editors:

Presentation to Education Partners JCSA Working Group - Presentation

JCSA Working Group Advancing Implementation Paper - Implementation Paper

Timetable for roll-out of JCSA

Academic YearSteps Proposed In Relation To the Issue of the Pace of Change



Revised English curriculum will be introduced for students entering first year in 2014 
 Short Courses will be introduced only for those schools which are happy to do so in September 2014
 Programmes for students with special needs will be available from Sept 2014



Revised Science curriculum to be introduced for students entering first year in September 2015 (rather than a group of three subjects as previously planned)
 Schools could opt for short courses but advised strongly to limit to a small number and to introduce gradually



Revised curriculums in Business Studies and Irish introduced for students commencing in September 2016 (and not as originally scheduled for September 2015)
  Standardised testing in English and Mathematics will take place in spring 2017 for second year students (rather than in 2015/16 as originally planned)



Revised curriculums in two (rather than four) further subjects – Art, Craft and Design and Modern Languages in September 2017 (originally scheduled for September 2016)
 Standardised testing in Science (and Irish in Irish medium schools) to be introduced in 2018 for second year students (rather than in 2017 as originally planned)



Revised curriculums in Home Economics, Music, Geography and Mathematics



Revised curriculums in History, Technologies, Jewish Studies, Religious Education & Classics