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.
New Junior Cycle at Rockbrook Park School 2017/18
Rockbrook Park School’s Junior Cycle programme offers a wide range of learning experiences, seeking to meet the educational needs of all its students. Learning takes place in Rockbrook in a climate focused on the collective wellbeing of the school, of community and of society, with the student’s overall experience contributing directly to their physical, spiritual, mental, emotional and social wellbeing and resilience.
A high quality curriculum (formal and informal), solid assessment, and quality teaching and learning support students in developing greater independence in learning and in meeting the challenges of life beyond school. The education received is characterised by high expectations of learners and the pursuit of excellence.
Students are provided with opportunities to be creative and innovative. The educational approach encourages participation, generates engagement and enthusiasm, and connects with life outside the school. Students are able to build on their learning to date, recognise their progress in learning and support their future learning.
The overall educational experience at Rockbrook, including its focus on character education and its universal outlook, is inclusive of all students and contributes to equality of opportunity, participation and outcomes for all.
The learning at the core of Junior Cycle is described in the twenty-four statements of learning. The detailed learning outcomes for each subject are developed by subject teachers. The aim is that each student:
- communicates effectively using a variety of means in a range of contexts (in English);
- listens, speaks, reads and writes in Irish and one other language at a level of proficiency that is appropriate to his ability; (in English, Irish, Spanish/French)
- creates, appreciates and critically interprets a wide range of texts; (in Art Craft Design, Great Books, English, French, History Irish, Music, Spanish)
- creates and presents artistic works and appreciates the process and skills involved; (in Art Craft Design, Artistic Performances, Great Books, English, Irish, Music, Physical Education, various clubs, choir)
- has an awareness of personal values and an understanding of the process of moral decision making; (in Religious Education, SPHE, Wellbeing, Assembly, Character Education programme, Mentoring)
- appreciates and respects how diverse values, beliefs and traditions have contributed to the communities and culture in which he lives; (in CSPE, Geography, History, Irish, Modern Languages, Religious Education, Assembly, school trips)
- values what it means to be an active citizen, with rights and responsibilities in local and wider contexts; (in Business Studies, CSPE, Geography, History, Wellbeing, Clanns, Clubs, Student Council, Assembly, Outings)
- values local, national and international heritage, understands the importance of the relationship between past and current events and the forces that drive change; (in Great Books, CSPE, Geography, History, Religious Education, Science, school trips)
- understands the origins and impacts of social, economic, and environmental aspects of the world around him; (in Business Studies, CSPE, Geography, History, Mathematics, school trips, competitions)
- has the awareness, knowledge, skills, values and motivation to live sustainably; (in Business Studies, CSPE, Geography, Science, SPHE, Wellbeing, school clubs)
- takes action to safeguard and promote his wellbeing and that of others; (in Guidance, Pastoral Care, Physical Education, Religious Education, SPHE, Wellbeing, school trips)
- is a confident and competent participant in physical activity and is motivated to be physically active; (in Physical Education, SPHE, Wellbeing, school clubs, clanns)
- understands the importance of food and diet in making healthy lifestyle choices; (Wellbeing, Physical Education, Science, SPHE, Clubs)
- makes informed financial decisions and develops good consumer skills; (in Business Studies, CSPE)
- recognises the potential uses of mathematical knowledge, skills and understanding in all areas of learning; (in Business Studies, Mathematics, Science)
- describes, illustrates, interprets, predicts and explains patterns and relationships; (in All languages, Business Studies, Geography, History, Mathematics, Music, Science)
- devises and evaluates strategies for investigating and solving problems using mathematical knowledge, reasoning and skills; (in Business Studies, Digital Media Literacy, Geography, Mathematics, Science, competitions, school clubs)
- observes and evaluates empirical events and processes and draws valid deductions and conclusions; (in Business Studies, Geography, Mathematics, Science)
- values the role and contribution of science and technology to society, and their personal, social and global importance; (in Digital Media Literacy, Science, Clubs)
- uses appropriate technologies in meeting a design challenge; (in Art Craft Design,Digital Media Literacy, Music)
- applies practical skills as he develop models and products using a variety of materials and technologies; (in Art Craft Design, school clubs)
- takes initiative, is innovative and develops entrepreneurial skills; ( inArt Craft Design, Business Studies, Artistic Performance, school clubs, school competitions)
- brings an idea from conception to realisation; (in Art Craft Design, Business Studies, Music, Physical Education, Project work, school competitions, choir)
- uses technology and digital media tools to learn, communicate, work and think collaboratively and creatively in a responsible and ethical manner (in most subjects).
The general purpose of education is to help young people acquire knowledge and learn competencies, cultivate minds with values and principles that help distinguish right from wrong, help them understand the world in which they live and the importance of family in their lives, actively promote growth in virtue, and help students build and deepen their relationship with God.
For Rockbrook to be able to effectively promote the true, the good and the beautiful, there is the vital need for coherence in word and deed. ‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.’
Rockbrook, through its education programme, will seek to develop the following key skills in its students. These eight key skills follow the outline proposed by the NCCA in its Framework for the Junior Cycle.
Knowing myself, my place in the world, my relationship with God and with others
Setting and achieving personal goals; understanding commitment
Knowing how to make correct judgements; making considered decisions
Being able to reflect on my own learning
Using digital technology to manage myself and my learning
Understanding right from wrong
Developing positive character traits through self-discipline
Being healthy and physically active
Appreciating temperance in all
Appreciating the role of family in our lives
Self-confidence deriving from self-respect
Being positive about learning
Being responsible, safe and ethical in using digital technology
Using language and number
Listening and expressing myself; understanding the need to communicate successfully with others
Performing and presenting
Discussing and debating
Using digital technology to communicate
Working with others
Developing good relationships and dealing with conflict
Co-operating and team-work
Living justice and respecting difference
Appreciating the value of bearing witness to what’s good
Contributing to making the world a better place; understanding how to love
Understanding the role of faith, hope and charity in our lives
Learning with others
Working with others through digital technology
Managing information and thinking
Appreciating the value of knowledge
Being able to distinguish truth from falsehood
Gathering, recording, organising and evaluating information and data
Thinking creatively and critically
Reflecting on and evaluating my learning
Using digital technology to access, manage and share content
Exploring options and alternatives
Appreciating the creativity of others
Implementing ideas and taking action
Stimulating creativity using digital technology
Developing my understanding and enjoyment of words and language
Reading for enjoyment and with critical understanding
Writing for different purposes
Expressing ideas clearly and accurately; communicating truth
Developing my spoken language
Exploring and creating a variety of texts including multi-modal texts
Expressing ideas mathematically
Estimating predicting and calculating
Developing a positive disposition towards investigating, reasoning & problem solving
Seeing patterns, trends and relationships
Gathering, interpreting and representing data, understanding how to correctly use data
Using digital technology to develop numeracy skills and understanding
Curriculum for First Year 2017/18
On commencement in September students will undertake standardised tests in Maths and English. The information derived from these tests together with Passport information from primary schools and STEN scores in 6th class will give the school a good understanding of the educational needs of new students.
During 2017/18, the new subject specifications for English, Science and Business Studies will be added to by further new subject specifications in Irish, Art, Music and Spanish. Choice is minimised so that all students undertake a wide range of academic subjects to Junior Cycle level. Thus a first year student will have the following subjects timetabled: Irish, English, Mathematics, History, Geography, Spanish, Science, Business Studies, Art, Music, Religious Education, CSPE, SPHE, Physical Education, Great Books, Computer Studies. (Originally we had asked students to choose between Art and Music but are now incorporating both into the first year timetable). The new Well Being subject incorporates the syllabus for SPHE, CSPE and Physical Education as well as some character education & guidance modules.
Classes are generally organised into mix ability groupings unless there is a decided advantage in another form of organisation. All subject teachers agree a common programme of topics in each subject and agree assessment timing and content. Each class group will be able to sit the same major examinations. The timetable for each year is finalised in late August.
Subject teacher groups decide on appropriate textbooks, and main points to be highlighted in 1st year programme before the end of May. The timetabling needs for the subjects are subsequently agreed between subject teachers and principal.
Progress on the first-year programme and its outcomes should be evaluated by subject teachers as part of subject teacher meetings which will be held periodically during the year. In subjects where there is a higher / ordinary class, the results at the end of the first year will be indicative (but not necessarily conclusive) with regard to any allocation to ordinary level in second year. Parents will be consulted early in second year about any changes in subject level by a student. Parents will get feedback on student progress after the October mid-term exams and after the January mid-year exams.
There is a class division for higher and ordinary levels in Irish, English and Maths when required (but not in first year). All other subjects are taught at the higher level in mixed ability classes. In general, at Junior Cycle, a student will be required to do all the subjects on offer (allowing for the limited choice offered), unless there are special circumstances pertaining (e.g. special educational needs require that he do less subjects).
All students are required to do Irish, unless exempt. Those with an exemption from primary school will normally continue with that exemption. Irish in first year will be taught at a higher level to a mixed ability class. Division into higher and ordinary level occurs at the beginning of second year (if required). Those capable of achieving an honour in the Junior or Leaving Cert will be expected to take the higher level. The school will also seek to promote Irish through its extra-curricular programme.
All students are encouraged to study English at a higher level throughout the school, except where it is likely a student might fail the public examinations. To this end, there may not be an Ordinary level English class, even to Leaving Cert. The subject plan for English will contain a wide range of extra-curricular activity to ensure a high standard pertains (theatre, library, debating & public speaking, project work etc.).
The school currently teaches two modern languages: Spanish and French. The traditional strength of Spanish in the school and the continued advantages it has (a number of native speakers at school here, ease of summer trips to Spain, greater exchange possibilities) has led it to become the only language currently on offer in the new Junior Cycle. Where French is available (upper years) it is timetabled against Spanish.
The promotion of literacy is afforded a high priority. Literacy is a major focus for the School Improvement Plan, which also focusses on Numeracy and Assessment. The Great Books syllabus in 2nd year promotes advanced literacy, as does the reading programme in Transition Year.
The teaching of Mathematics is afforded high priority in the school. All students will be taught at the higher level in First Year and a division into Higher and Ordinary level will normally occur at the end of First Year or later. Students are encouraged to stay as long as possible in the higher level group, but a balance must often be struck between securing the basics and being over-ambitious. Extra curricula activity in Maths (e.g. maths, science Olympiads) is encouraged.
All students do Science in the Junior Cycle. Subsequently, Science modules, at least two of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, are taught in Transition Year. Students have the option of studying three science subjects to the Leaving Certificate. Extra-curricular activities in Science (essays, Young Scientist, Science & Discovery Club) are actively encouraged.
History and Geography are taught throughout the school and will be compulsory until the end of Transition Year. Students may have the option of continuing both at Higher or Ordinary level to Leaving Certificate.
Business Studies is taught in the Junior Cycle and at Leaving Cert level throughout the school. It may be an optional subject at Junior Cert level for students experiencing subject overload or with special education needs. Extra-curricular activity is encouraged, especially during Transition Year. Another business subject, Economics, is available for the Leaving Cert.
Students are currently encouraged to do either Music or Art up to Junior Cert Level. There may yet be the option of studying both throughout Junior Cycle, following on the changes being implemented in 2017/18. Both Art and Music are also offered as Leaving Cert options, although currently they are in the same choice band.
All students must do CSPE and SPHE in the Junior Cycle in the school. Both subjects provide good opportunities to invite external educators into the school. In such circumstances all such visits must have management approval. Useful guidelines for such visits have been provided by the DES and are followed. The subject specification for these subjects and for Physical Education will be combined into one subject, Well Being, in the near future. Training in PE/Sport for school teams or inter-school activity normally takes place outside of the standard school day.
All Catholic students in the school are required to attend Religious Education classes. This is taught through the six years in the school, following a programme agreed by the relevant teachers. This programme is discussed annually with the diocesan religious education adviser, as required. Non-Catholics are encouraged to attend all Religious Education classes. A plan in each case is agreed with the student’s parents, especially with those who are not Christian. Currently the Junior Cycle programme in Religion is not an examinable subject in the school.
Second year students currently take most of the following subjects:
Irish, English, Maths, History, Geography, Spanish, Science, Business Studies, Leadership/CSPE, Religious Knowledge, Social Person / SPHE, Music (or Art), Computers, Great Books and Physical Education.
Students in Third year currently study the following examination subjects: Irish, English, Maths, History, Science, Geography, CSPE, Religious Knowledge, SPHE, Business Studies, Spanish, and a choice 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.
Students finishing the Junior Cycle in 2018 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;
- 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, Music or Art (9 core subjects) plus Physical Education (non-exam) and Religion (non-exam).
Assessment (needs updating in 2017/18)
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.