Teenagers want reform of the Junior Cycle in second-level schools
Coach House, Dublin Castle
Monday, 11th July 2011
Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and Ruairí Quinn TD, Minister for Education and Skills jointly launched the Report of a Consultation with young people on reform of the Junior Cycle today. It showed that the participants believed the Junior Cycle should be two years long, allowing for an extra year for the Senior Cycle; more and improved classes in Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) were desirable; that Maths and English should be the only mandatory subjects and that more help with the transition to second level would be useful.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Fitzgerald said, ‘I am delighted to launch this report because I strongly believe in the importance of consulting with children and young people and enabling their participation in decision-making on issues that affect their lives.’
She noted that 88 young people, aged 12-18, from Comhairle na nÓg around Ireland took part in the consultation on reform of the Junior Cycle. ‘The young people identified social skills and life skills as extremely important to their lives in Junior Cycle. They want more and improved classes in Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE). In my role as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs I have seen the growing need for more effective support for young people in developing and maintaining positive mental health and the important role that SPHE can play on those issues,’ stated Minister Fitzgerald.
Also speaking at the launch, Ruairí Quinn TD, Minister for Education and Skills said, ‘I believe that we all learn most effectively when we experience issues for ourselves, through investigation and research, project and practical work, and group discussion. These are skills for independent learning which will serve us well over a lifetime. It is this kind of active learning which we are trying to promote in the reform of the Junior Cycle.’
Three young people explained the consultation process and outlined the key findings from the report. Dorina Birsanu from Longford Comhairle na nÓg and a member of the Dáil na nÓg Council said, ‘Dáil na nÓg 2010 recommended that the Department of Education and Skills should lengthen the Leaving Cert cycle to 3 years and reduce the Junior Cert cycle to 2 years. As the elected representatives from Dáil na nÓg, we organised a special consultation for young people to influence the consultation process of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) on reform on the Junior Cycle.’ Padraig Duffy from Louth Comhairle na nÓg and the Dáil na nÓg Council said, ‘at the consultation, students highlighted the stress of the move from Primary School to second-level and suggested ideas to ease the transition, including:
- Second-level orientation in 6th class of Primary School
- Mentoring, buddy programmes, clubs, social activities and team-building in 1st year
- In 1st year, teachers should move classrooms rather than students and students should be given school maps.
SPHE, CSPE, English and Maths are the only subjects that young people agreed should be compulsory in Junior Cycle, but they want a broad range of taster subjects in 1st year. Students at the consultation called for more interesting and fun teaching methods, but do not believe that schools should be allowed to develop their own courses.’
Lisa Sheehy from Limerick County Comhairle na nÓg and the Dáil na nÓg Council spoke of the need for more positive feedback, noting that all students should experience success at school.
‘Students said that the Junior Cycle is too exam-focussed and that the Junior Certificate Exam is a negative form of assessment, a memory test and does not take into account the different abilities of students,’ continued Lisa.
She noted that at the consultation there was no consensus among young people about continuous assessment. However, there was strong agreement on the need for practical assessment of subjects such as portfolios, journals, projects, group work and quizzes.
One of the strongest issues that arose at the consultation was the importance of life skills and social skills and the need for more classes and improved courses in SPHE and CSPE. ‘Students called for classes that cover issues such as sexuality, sex education, personal health, alcohol and drug education, politics and study skills. The students believe that SPHE should not be taught by religion teachers and that outside experts need to come into schools to support students with life skills issues.’
‘Our consultation report was submitted to the NCCA. We hope that the Framework on the Junior Cycle being developed by NCCA will take on board the views of young people from this report,’ concluded Lisa.
Press and Information Office, Department of Children and Youth Affairs
el: 01 6473130 / 087 7419627
The Dáil na nÓg Council is a group of 34 young people elected from each Comhairle na nÓg in the country to follow-up on the key recommendations from Dáil na nÓg. The Council has a term of office of two years and is supported by staff from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the National Youth Council of Ireland to engage with key politicians and policy makers in progressing the issues on which they were mandated at Dáil na nÓg. The consultation with young people on the reform of the Junior Cycle took place on 13th November 2010 organised by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMCYA), the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and the Dáil na nÓg Council. A total of 88 young people, aged 12-18, from Comhairlí na nÓg around Ireland took part in the consultation.