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Junior Cycle

Junior Cycle

The Junior Cycle represents a significant change in the way secondary education is provided to our young people in Ireland. Full details on the thinking behind the new curriculum which is currently being phased in can be found in the Junior Cycle Framework document: Framework-for-Junior-Cycle

The new curriculum focuses on developing 6 Key Skills. These are summarised in the table above.

The framework document sets out 24 corresponding statements of learning which schools should provide to it’s students through the subjects it offers. These are available here: NCCA-Junior-Cycle-Statements-of-Learning

Provision for theses statements of learning is being accompanied by a new curriculum structure and new subjects specifications being introduced on a phased basis.

Curriculum Structure

Schools may now offer a number of ‘Short Courses‘ as well as the established subjects.  These short courses can cover a wide range of learning and at Mounthawk we are currently giving careful consideration to what courses to offer.  Some short courses being offered from the NCCA include Coding, Philosophy, CSPE, PE, SPHE, Artistic Performance and Digital Media Literacy among others. In Mounthawk, from September 2018 students have the option of taking the maximum of 10 full subjects for Junior Cycle or they may opt instead for 9 subjects plus 2 short courses. Details of these choices will be issued to parents at the appropriate time. Parents can see greater detail on the content of Short Courses at this link:

Subject Specifications

New subject syllabi (or ‘specifications’) are being introduced in all Junior Cycle subjects on a planned, phased basis which began in 2014 with English. The graphic below outlines the plans for subject specification introductions:


Assessment in the Junior Cycle

The new grade system for Junior Cycle written exams is as given below.  As the New Junior Cycle is phased in students will have a mixture of ‘old’ (Junior Certificate) and ‘new’ (Junior Cycle) grades on their JCPA.


Junior Certificate Classroom Based Assessments

Classroom Based Assessments (CBAs) provide students with opportunities to demonstrate their learning and skills in ways not possible in a pen and paper examination, for example, their verbal communication and investigation skills. CBAs will be undertaken in subjects and short courses and will be facilitated by the classroom teacher. They will be undertaken during a defined time period within normal class contact time and to a national timetable. Students will complete one CBA in second year and one in third year in most subjects.

CBAs will be reported on in the JCPA using the following descriptors:

Exceptional describes a piece of work that reflects all of the Features of Quality for the Classroom Based Assessment to a very high standard. While not necessarily perfect, the strengths of the work far outstrip its flaws, which are minor. Suggestions for improvement are easily addressable by the student.

Above Expectations
Above expectations describes a piece of work that reflects the Features of Quality for the Classroom Based Assessment very well. The student shows a clear appreciation of purpose and register, and the work is praised for its consistency. Feedback from the teacher might point to the necessity to address some aspect of the work in need of further attention or polishing, but, on the whole the work is of a high standard.

In Line with Expectations
In line with expectations describes a piece of work that reflects most of the Features of Quality for the Classroom-Based Assessment well. It shows a good understanding of the task in hand and is free from significant error. Feedback might point to areas needing further attention or correction, but the work is generally competent and accurate.

Yet to Meet Expectations
Yet to meet expectations describes a piece of work that falls someway short of the demands of the Classroom-Based Assessment and its associated Features of Quality. Perhaps the student has made a good attempt, but the task has not been grasped clearly or is marred by significant lapses. Feedback will draw attention to fundamental errors that need to be addressed.


The Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement

From 2017 the state no longer issues the traditional Junior Certificate to students. This is now replaced by the school-issued Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA). This profile document outlines the results achieved in the state certified examinations in June of the third year but also shows the results achieved in key Classroom Based Assessments (CBA’s) which are administered and assessed by the class teacher.  There is also a section to recognise ‘Other Areas of learning’. This, for the first time, gives an opportunity for a student’s extra-curricular involvements to be acknowledged and the learning in those areas noted. Students are surveyed, in conjunction with their parents, on what other areas of learning they wish to include here.  The involvements that can appear must, however be firstly, school-based and secondly, verifiable by a teacher in the school. A sample JCPA can be seen here :


An excellent summary of the above information can be seen here: Junior Cycle Information for Parents


A major emphasis of the new Junior Cycle is student wellbeing. Wellbeing comprises a subject in Junior Cycle components of which are covered in the subjects of PE, SPHE and CSPE. Elements of wellbeing may also be covered in other subjects as well as directly in our class tutorial sessions .  More detail on Wellbeing can be found here: Wellbeing-Guidelines-for-Junior-Cycle

Physical Education

This 100 hour short course builds on the Junior Cycle Physical Education Framework which physical education teachers currently use to plan their physical education programme in junior cycle. There are four strands, each one focusing on learning in different physical activity areas: Physical activity for health and wellbeing. Games, Individual and team challenges, Dance and Gymnastics. 6 The learning outcomes in this short course provide a clear focus for student learning as well as teacher planning. In order to ensure that students are motivated to learn and participate in physical education, there is emphasis on consultation with students about the course and assessment design.

Digital Media Literacy

Creating and sharing media in a digital environment has become an increasingly important feature of how young people communicate and engage with each other and with the wider world. Young people are actively manipulating digital media to participate in social and cultural life, to pursue their interests and to express themselves online. Through studying this digital media literacy short course, students will learn to use digital technology to engage in self-directed enquiry, to discriminate between multiple sources of information and to participate safely and effectively in an online environment.

Civic, Social and Political Education

This 100 hour short course builds upon the 70 hour CSPE course that many are familiar with. It is built around three strands, rights and responsibilities, global citizenship and exploring democracy. There is a strong focus on student action aimed at giving students an experience of active citizenship.

Social, Personal and Health Education

This 100 hour SPHE short course builds on the Junior Cycle Social, Personal and Health Education Framework which SPHE teachers currently use to plan their SPHE programme in junior cycle. By choosing to include this short course in the school’s Wellbeing programme in junior cycle, students have a dedicated space and time to learn about themselves, caring for themselves and others and making informed decisions for their health and wellbeing. There are four strands, each one focusing on learning in different but related areas of social, personal and health education: Who am I?, Minding myself and others, Team up, and My mental health. The learning outcomes provide a clear focus for student learning as well as teacher planning. There is particular emphasis on the importance of student agency and engagement in the learning process as key to learning in the affective domain.

Artistic Performance

Learning about and through the arts is fundamental to an education that aspires to support the development of the whole person. Awareness of, involvement in and appreciation of the arts, enables students to encounter a rich world of creativity, imagination and innovation (Arts in Education Charter, 2012). The UN Declaration of Human Rights (Article 27) affirms the right of everyone to ‘participate in the cultural life of the country, and to enjoy the arts’.

Learning in the area of artistic performance is enjoyable for students, because it is hands-on, fully engaging the participants in practical group activities. It fosters both the development of the specific skills of the art form and a range of transferable skills that may apply to other collaborative endeavours. Through movement, sound, symbol and image, the arts can transform people’s creative ideas into expressive works that communicate feelings, meanings and interpretations to an audience. While it may draw on the students’ previous experiences, it also provides opportunities for students to develop new skills; the performance being both a challenge and a source of satisfaction in bringing an idea from conception to realisation.


This short course in artistic performance aims to engage students in artistic practices with others, by offering a structure that can be used to facilitate collaborative and individual imaginative and creative initiatives, leading to a group performance.

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