The Junior Cycle programme follows on from what students have studied in Primary School. It is a broad- based programme designed to provide a good general education and to prepare students for their Senior Cycle studies.
The First Year Curriculum is intended to provide the new comers to secondary school with as wide a range of educational experience as possible, so that each student may discover his scholastic and vocational aptitudes. Incoming first years are encouraged to attend a two-week summer camp before the school year commences to help them settle in more easily into the school.
First Year and second year students currently take most of the following subjects:
Irish, English, Maths, History, Geography, Spanish (French may also be available), Science, Business Studies, Leadership/CSPE, Religious Knowledge, Social Person / SPHE, Music (or Art), Computers/Research, Great Books and Physical Education. First years may have a choice between studying either French or Spanish, and Music or Art.
Students in Third year currently study the following examination subjects: Irish, English, Maths, History, Science, Geography, CSPE, Religious Knowledge, SPHE, Business Studies, and with an option between French and Spanish, and between Music and Art.
Changes to the Junior Cycle
A new national Junior Cycle programme commenced for first year students commencing secondary school in September 2014. The syllabus is being gradually unveiled and implemented by the Department of Education and Skills. The programme will place less emphasis on the final examination and will require more continuous assessment evaluation than heretofore. Each school will design some of its own curriculum drawing on DES resources as well as designing some of its own courses. There will be a much greater emphasis on schools certifying their own students’ performances. Rockbrook is currently reviewing how it can best meet the challenges of this major development.
An outline of Rockbrook’s approach to the new Junior Cycle for 2014/15
Note that this outline has now been superseded by a DES directive in April 2016, following on repeated national delays in the implementation of the new Junior Cycle reforms. The content of this outline is not now fully accurate, but the spirit of this outline will continue to inform Rockbrook’s approach as it undertakes DES directives. Insofar as possible the changes resulting from the impact of the DES April 2016 directive has been incorporated below.
For completeness, this section needs to be read in conjunction with the DES booklet Framework for Junior Cycle (see www.education.ie)
The Junior Certificate will evolve over the next few years into a school assessed programme leading to a School Certificate of Learning after three years. Only three subjects will be mandatory: Irish English and Maths.
Students finishing the Junior Cycle in 2017 will have
- a completely new English syllabus (new syllabus commenced in Sept 2014);
- continuous assessment in the school with at least 40% of the final mark being allocated to this work (still awaiting DES direction on this for 2017 exam students);
- a national assessment exam marked in the school in Irish, English and Maths at both Higher and Ordinary level;
- national assessment exams in other subjects marked at a common level (only being implemented on a phased basis – the current expectation is that this will impact on the Science & Business syllabus in 2019 – i.e. for students starting 1st year in Sept 2016;
- some new short courses designed by the school – the current courses underway will not be certifiable under changes announced by DES in April 2016
- other syllabuses will be changed gradually (in subsequent years);
- subjects provided by schools which will be underpinned by eight basic principles and 24 statements of learning.
Principles and future practice
Rockbrook will ensure that all students get a broad based education and that all traditional subjects continue to be taught at Junior Level.
Our Junior Cycle programme will ensure that students are well prepared to undertake a full range of appropriate subjects for the Leaving Certificate. This programme will be augmented by a subject-taster programme in Transition Year to help students make the proper choices for the Leaving Certificate.
In keeping with our commitment to providing a fully rounded education, the school will also provide appropriate short courses.
The school will continue to issue reports at least three times annually to parents and where required these will update parents on the continuous assessment marks being allocated for the students’ work.
Students will study all of the following subjects: Irish, English, Mathematics, History, Geography, Science, Business, Spanish (and/or French), Music or Art (9 core subjects) plus Physical Education (non-exam) and Religion (non-exam).
Students will study four short courses designed by the school. These include:
- Leadership: a course incorporating traditional CSPE, personal leadership & character education modules as well as studying great leaders of the past. (Due to April 2016 changes students will continue to study the full CSPE syllabus & do the JC exam)
- Great Books: a course studying good literature with high level of literacy and character study included.
- The enquiring mind: a course incorporating computer skills and in which students will also learn the basics of managing media, report writing as well as undertaking research in the practical and social sciences and in local history. (This programme will focus mainly on computer literacy for the present. Other elements will be included in the TY programme)
- The social person: includes all the current SPHE syllabus, and the value of service, as well as availing of practical opportunities to serve (but will not be a ‘short course’ as envisaged by the new JC syllabus as a further new subject Wellbeing is being devised by DES).
The subjects provided by the school will be underpinned by eight basic principle and 24 statements of learning (see DES Framework booklet)
Continuous assessment for the following subjects will commence in 2nd year: Irish, English, Mathematics, History, Geography, Science, Business, Spanish (or French), Music or Art (9 core subjects) – this will now be implemented on a phased basis: thus English in JC 2017; perhaps Science and Business in JC 2018 etc.
A student can choose to include eight or nine of these subjects on his Certificate for Learning (which will replace the Junior Certificate).
Continuous assessment for the four short courses (Leadership, Great Books, The enquiring mind & The social person) has now (as of April 2016) been cancelled for Leadership and the Social Person – as these subjects will be ultimately subsumed into Wellbeing – and put on ice for the Enquiring Mind and Great Books – as the DES delay in changing the syllabus has left insufficient time to teach these programmes in full .
Each student will be issued with a Junior Cycle Student Achievement profile.
This will include the School Certificate of Learning which will have the details above mentioned above.
Other learning experiences of the student (e.g. involvement in debating or sporting clubs, representing the school) will be included in the profile.
The results of standardised tests in Reading, Maths and Science completed in 2nd year will also be included on the profile (this element of the plan has yet to be implemented by DES)
The value of the Rockbrook approach
Students at Rockbrook will be well equipped to take any Leaving Certificate programme they wish, having studied a broad Junior Cycle curriculum.
The ongoing involvement of parents in their sons’ education, as encouraged in Rockbrook, will lead to better continuous assessment results for boys.
By 2019, it is likely that in awarding college places, colleges will be looking at a student’s Achievement Profile as well as interviewing him and looking at Leaving Certificate results.
The emphasis on extra-curricular learning in Rockbrook (service, specific school trips, debating) and the solid education in character Rockbrook provides gives Rockbrook boys a head start when it comes to personal presentation at interview.
The all-round education approach (as indicated on the Achievement Profile) taken by Rockbrook will stand all students in good stead at interview.