22 May, 2015- Minister O’Sullivan Welcomes Breakthrough in Junior Cycle Reform

The Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan TD, has welcomed the breakthrough in negotiations on junior cycle reform, following the publication today of proposals agreed between the Minister and the leadership of the two second-level teacher unions.

Underlying these proposals are Minister O’Sullivan’s five main principles which she stated must be the basis of any change:

1.   The need to recognise a wide range of learning

2.   A requirement to considerably reduce the focus on one terminal exam as a means of assessing our students

3.   The necessity to give prominence and importance to classroom based assessment

4.   Greater professional collaboration between teachers to be a feature of our schools

5.   Both parents and students to get a broader picture of each student's learning throughout the whole of junior cycle

Both the Minister and the unions’ executives have agreed on these principles as the basis for agreement.

The main elements of the proposals for a reformed Junior Cycle are:

  • A revised final exam will be marked by the State Examinations Commission (SEC)
  • Subject teachers will assess students’ progress through Classroom-Based Assessments (CBAs), with one assessment event per subject in both second and third years.
  • A written Assessment Task, based on the second CBA, will be completed in each subject in third year, marked by SEC and form part of the overall exam result. 
  • Students will study a maximum of ten subjects for State certification.
  • A new subject, “Well-being”, will be studied by all students. This will encompass Physical Education, SPHE and CSPE. New courses will be available for each of these subject areas, and overall learning time will be 400 hours.
  • Students can take short courses, which will be based on programmes developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) or schools themselves, require 100 hours of learning, and be assessed through Classroom-Based Assessment. 
  • Following the completion of the three year Junior Cycle students will receive from their school a Profile of Achievement document which will record their progress in all areas, including the written exam, the Classroom-Based Assessments and other extra curricular activities.
  • An updated Junior Cycle Framework will be published by the end of June this year, providing full details of the possible combination of subjects and short courses.

Announcing her support for the changes, Minister O’Sullivan said: “I wholeheartedly recommend these revised proposals, and believe they merit the support of all involved in education in Ireland. They place the student at the centre of the learning process, and allow for new ways of learning to be properly assessed.

“Expanding the type of assessment and the skills to be assessed is central to junior cycle reform, and, through negotiation, we have been able to deliver the best of both worlds. Students will sit a valued written exam, and have much more of their development and progress measured through classroom assessment.

“All of these changes have been a long time coming, and I hope that with today’s announcement, we can move to implementing the measures that are needed to best serve our young people.”


Notes for Editors:

The full proposal document is available here- Junior Cycle Reform - Joint Statement on Principles and Implementation

Further details of the proposals, under each principle area:

Recognising a wide range of learning-

The Junior Cycle will encompass learning in subjects or a combination of subjects and short courses, to allow students to develop skills for the 21st century.

Classroom- based assessment will allow students to demonstrate a wide range of skills and abilities, and will involve constructive feedback from teachers.

Reducing the focus on one terminal exam-

A revised Junior Cert exam will be one element of junior cycle assessment.

The exam questions will be aligned with the learning objectives of the revised curriculum specifications.

Giving prominence and importance to classroom-based assessment-

Structured CBAs will be selected by subject teachers from a number of possible assessment options for the subject, with standards set by the NCCA, in consultation with the SEC.

CBAs include project tasks, oral tasks, investigations, practical or designing and making tasks, field studies and artistic performance.

Developing a strong culture of professional collaboration between teachers-

Embedding assessment for learning will require a thorough focus of continuing professional development for teachers, and they will be supported in this by the Junior Cycle for Teachers Support Service.

Regular professional development among teachers will be required to support CBAs.

A broader picture of achievement is provided-

The “Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement” will give appropriate recognition to the formative and summative approaches embedded in the new programme.

All of the learning opportunities and experiences a student has will be valued, acknowledged and affirmed.