04 September, 2017 - Minister Bruton launches the new Junior Cycle specifications for Irish, Modern Foreign Languages and Visual Art

New Irish Syllabus Puts Big Focus on Spoken Language

Junior Cycle Wellbeing Programme Launched

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD, has today launched the new Junior Cycle specifications for Irish, Modern Foreign Languages and Visual Art. This September also marks the introduction of the new Junior Cycle Wellbeing programme. The Minister visited Coláiste Bríde, Clondalkin to mark the occasion.

 The strengthening of Irish is a core goal of the Government’s 20 year strategy on the Irish Language. The introduction of new specifications for Junior Cycle Irish represents a significant change from existing approaches to the teaching, learning and assessment of Irish at junior cycle level.  The development of these specifications is fulfilment of promises in the Action Plan for Education 2016-2019 and the Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017-2022.

Following feedback during the consultation phase, the decision was taken to develop two separate specifications (one for students in Irish-medium schools and students in English-medium schools who learn through Irish in one or more subjects, and a second for students in English-medium schools).

The new Junior Cycle specifications for Irish will place a strong focus on the spoken language. Emphasis will be put on Irish as the language of learning and communication in classrooms as well as an emphasis on the skills required to communicate effectively with other users of the language. Communication, opportunities for use and interaction are central to classroom tasks.

A different type of assessment methodology for oral language skills (and other skills) will be used in the new Junior Cycle Irish specification. Now, as part of the new Junior Cycle Irish specifications, the oral language skills of all students will be formally assessed. This will be done by means of Classroom-Based Assessments (CBAs) which will be reported by schools to parents at the end of third year in the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA). Up to now, there was an optional oral language test, taken by a minority of students, and generally assessed by their teachers as part of the old Junior Certificate examination.

The new Modern European Languages specifications (including French, German, Spanish and Italian) will give students opportunities to enjoy and learn the languages. Through the study of the language students will develop knowledge, understanding and skills in language, culture and literacy.

The new specification puts a particular focus on: 

  • the role that ICT and digital media play in the teaching and learning of foreign languages
  • the assessment of oral skills not contained in previous syllabus (other than an optional oral component which has to date been taken by a minority of students.).

Visual Art encompasses art, craft and design and involves practical work in a wide range of media leading to a specific outcome e.g. an artwork, a design, architectural study, an installation, an event. Making art develops the learner's imagination through developing an idea or concept and allows them exercise personal responsibility for specific tasks.

The introduction of a Wellbeing Programme in all schools at Junior Cycle is part of a commitment in the Action Plan for Education to actively support and develop wellbeing initiatives to promote the development of mental resilience and personal wellbeing in schools.

Speaking at Coláiste Bríde in Clondalkin, the Minister said:

“The new Junior Cycle gives students the opportunity to develop a wider range of knowledge and skills – to equip them for further learning, for work, for responsible and active citizenship, and for healthy living. It gives students better learning opportunities, and rewards and recognises non-academic performance and achievements, with a central focus on the student’s quality of life, wellbeing and mental health.”

“The Government is strongly committed to implementing the actions in the 20-Year Strategy for Irish and the Gaeltacht Education Strategy, the first ever strategy for Gaeltacht Education which I launched last year. Today we are launching the new junior cycle Irish specifications. I want more people to speak Irish in school, at home and in their community. That is why we are placing a much bigger emphasis on getting people speaking oral Irish, and for the first time every student will be assessed.”

“A central part of being the best is our ability to support our students with the skills to be global citizens, to understand other cultures and societies, as well as the skills to function and thrive in the modern economy. The study of modern foreign languages enables students to develop these skills  and their enjoyment of these languages.”

“Through practical engagement in the areas of art, craft and design students will develop self-confidence, inquisitiveness, imagination, and creativity. They will also develop authentic, real-world problem-solving capacities and the capacity to work over time, as an individual and in groups, on the design and execution of artistic and aesthetic tasks.”

“Student mental health and wellbeing are key goals in the Government’s Action Plan for Education. All schools will offer a wellbeing programme from this September. The wellbeing programme will include learning opportunities to enhance the physical, mental, emotional and social well-being of students. It will enable students to build life skills and develop a strong sense of connectedness to their school and to their community.”

Notes to editor


Student assessment will consist of two classroom based assessments for each subject, a written assessment task and a final written examination.  Both the Assessment Task and the final written examination will be marked by the State Examinations Commission (SEC). First year students this September will receive their Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) in 2020.

Curriculum Reform:  

This marks a significant element of curriculum reform underway via the new Framework for Junior Cycle 2015. The new specifications launched today were developed by the NCCA and approved by the Minister and are now in place for those students entering first year in 2017/2018.

The rollout of Irish, Modern Foreign Languages and Visual Art marks the introduction of Phase 3 of Junior Cycle and will be followed in September 2018 with the introduction of new specifications in Mathematics, Home Economics, History, Music and Geography.

The first new subject specification for English was rolled out in September 2014 and was followed by new specifications for Business Studies and Science in 2016.

Junior Cycle Irish Specification

In the junior cycle specifications for Irish, students consolidate and deepen their understanding of Irish. Students are enabled to communicate in an effective, interactive, confident manner in formal and informal settings in the language community. The fostering and development of awareness is emphasised; language and cultural awareness as well as students’ self-awareness as language learners. Junior Cycle Irish seeks to consolidate and develop the skills students bring to post-primary school. Students are empowered to assume ownership of Irish; an important life skill. Students are encouraged to:

  • Use language effectively and confidently, both personally and in communicating with other users in the language community
  • Enjoy creative and innovative communication in Irish
  • Appreciate Irish and have a desire both to speak it and use it
  • Express themselves through consolidation of their literacy skills
  • Attempt to use newly-learned language aspects
  • Engage with a wide range of texts in various ways, for learning, research, and recreation
  • Have an appreciation and respect for literature in Irish so that they may enjoy literature and benefit from it
  • Gain a better understanding of Irish culture and have respect and understanding for other cultures and languages.