Jan O’Sullivan TD, Minister for Education and Skills, launched Phase 1 of the implementation of a new Leaving Certificate subject, Politics and Society, in Limerick on Monday 1st February. The launch event was organised by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and also featured workshops and other information sessions for the participating schools throughout the day. Along with principals and teachers from the participating schools, the audience included a range of educationalists, curriculum experts and other representatives from management and teacher bodies. In her address, the Minister said:
“I am absolutely delighted to be here, and to see Politics and Society launching onto the Irish education scene during my tenure as Minister for Education and Skills. For a long time now, I have viewed this subject as one with the potential to have a significant impact on our students in senior cycle, and it is thrilling for all of us here, I am sure, to see this day arrive”.
The Minister paid tribute to the NCCA, under its CEO Dr Anne Looney, and to Dr Roland Tormey who had been the chief architect of the subject specification. She commended the Professional Development Service for Teachers, who will deliver the training programme for teachers from the Phase 1 schools, and singled out the schools involved for special mention. She acknowledged that they had faced challenges in preparing for the subject next September, but added:
“It would be hard to overestimate its value to your school curricula, and to the national curriculum in due course. You few represent the 40 or so schools travelling this journey in 2016, but you do so as trailblazers for many after you”.
A total of 115 schools expressed interest, which is phenomenal for a new subject. The Minister said she was delighted that her Department had been able to offer places to so many schools for this first phase, and that all other interested schools will be accommodated from 2018.
Politics and Society is one of the Department of Education and Skills’ legacy projects under its 2016 commemorative programme, seen as a subject to help build on and learn from the reflection on past events to better equip students to make progress into the future. The Minister took the opportunity to encourage all schools to get involved with another part of the Department’s programme, writing their own ‘Proclamation for a New Generation’ and to unveil them on Proclamation Day, 15th March next.
From a local perspective, the Minister alluded to the legacy of Kathleen Clarke (nee Daly) of Limerick, inspiring generations of women in politics after 1916. She spoke of how issues like urban regeneration and even the local impact of global warming, as seen in recent flooding, were other themes which could be studied within Politics and Society. The Minister spoke fondly too of nearby Thomond Park as a possible inspiration for students of Politics and Society, because of the great sense of community pride, multiculturalism and social integration that the stadium represents.
Before concluding, the Minister confided that a desire to bring about a better society was the reason why she herself had first become involved in community action, campaigns for social justice, women’s rights and, ultimately, in politics, adding:
“I am convinced that this new subject will inspire a generation of new social and political activists in Ireland, and I look forward immensely to seeing the positive impact these students will have on society hereafter”.
For the students taking this new subject from September 2016, Politics and Society will be a full Leaving Certificate examination subject in 2018, at higher and ordinary levels.