18 February, 2020 – Minister announces arrangements for schools to apply new special core status of History at Junior Cycle

From September all post-primary schools will offer History and all students entering first year will study the subject

Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. has today (Tuesday 18 February 2020) announced the arrangements to be put in place in order to facilitate History’s special core status in the Framework for Junior Cycle.

Following Minister McHugh’s decision of 1 October 2019 to accord History special core status within the Framework for Junior Cycle, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) was requested to advise how the decision could be best given effect.

Minister McHugh thanked the NCCA for its support and advice.

He said “I am confirming the new core status for History for all students entering Junior Cycle from this September.

“I believe that there is an obligation on leaders and older generations to ensure we provide the opportunity for the next generation to gain an understanding of our past – the good and the bad. We need to afford young people the chance to learn from our chequered history and appreciate how knowledge of the past can shape the future.”

Minister McHugh added: “I am hugely grateful to the NCCA Council for the work they have done to review the place of History in the Junior Cycle and also the advice on how best to implement my decision to give it a special core status.”

Minister McHugh has decided that from September 2020, all schools will be required to offer History as a Junior Cycle subject and all students entering first year at that time will be required to study History as part of the curriculum. Students will follow the existing Junior Cycle History specification, which is of a minimum of 200 hours’ duration and will be assessed at a common level.

The History specification was introduced to schools in September 2018, as part of the rollout of the Junior Cycle Framework.

Prior to the introduction of the new Framework, History was a mandatory subject in approximately half of post-primary schools, although around nine out of ten students across post-primary continue to take the History examination at Junior Cycle.

There are 21 subjects being offered under the framework. Three of these, Mathematics, English and Irish, are mandatory and require a minimum of 240 hours of learning. History has been added to the list and will require a minimum of 200 hours learning. The other 17 subjects remain optional, within the overall requirement to study up to a maximum of 10 subjects.

The NCCA is also being asked to develop a short course in History for certain students with general learning difficulties/needs. Students in this category will not be required to study the subject ahead of the new short course being made available in September 2021.

Schools are being advised by Departmental circular letter of the practical arrangements for the implementation of the Minister’s decision to accord History special core status.


Notes for Editors

Framework for Junior Cycle - Subjects 

As of September 2020, all Junior Cycle students will study subjects in the combination shown in the table below, with History added as a core subject:


Core   Subjects

Other Subjects/Short Courses

Wellbeing   Programme

Hours Remaining in the Timetabled Curriculum

Maths  – 240 hours minimum 

English – 240 hrs min. 

Irish – 240 hrs min. 

History – 200 hrs min.

6  Subjects x 200 Hours minimum or other combination of Subjects and Short Courses

CSPE, SPHE, PE and Other Areas of Learning


920 Hours

1200 Hours

400 Hours

285 Hours

Students will study a maximum of 10 subjects, or fewer if combined with short courses. This includes subjects taken outside of a recognised school setting. 

Students with Special Educational Needs 

When planning its Junior Cycle programme, each school is required to take account of the school’s local context and the backgrounds, interests, and abilities of its students and to ensure that, within the school’s Junior Cycle programme, there is sufficient flexibility to cater for the individual learning needs of all students, including those with special educational needs.

The Department has requested the NCCA to develop a short course in History which will be broadly aligned with Level 2 of the National Framework of Qualifications. The short course will be designed for the small number of students with general learning difficulties/needs in the low mild to high moderate range of ability and will be available for the 2021/2022 school year. Students in the low moderate and severe and profound range of general learning disability will not be required to study History. 

Resources to teach History 

Curricular Concessions are extra teaching hours which are made available to a school affected by an unexpected skills shortfall in specific subject areas which it has not been in a position to resolve through school planning and management processes.

It will be open to schools that require teaching resources to teach History to all their first year students from September 2020 to apply for curricular concessions as a short-term measure.

In applying for curricular concessions a school must indicate the hours per week sought and outline the reasons for the request. Schools are asked, since the curricular concessions are short term, what plans the school is putting in place to enable the school to operate within its normal allocation in future years.

Schools are also asked to consider if co-operation arrangements with a neighbouring school have been considered.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) 

With a view to facilitating the introduction of the study of History for all students from September 2020, a programme of CPD provision will be devised by the Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) service.