The Framework for Junior Cycle was introduced in 2015. All schools have introduced a new subject specification for Junior Cycle English, and new specifications for Business and Science will be introduced in September 2016. The key skills of junior cycle are embedded in the specifications and in the assessment. Schools will now decide whether to offer some NCCA short courses, or some short courses of their own design, as part of their junior cycle programme. They will ensure that the school’s junior cycle programme as a whole meets the statements of learning set out in the Framework. Finally, that programme will also need to take account of the limit placed on the number of subjects and short courses that students can include for certification at the end of third year. This represents the minimum change involved for schools.
As the Framework is designed to create the conditions where schools, in planning and organising their junior cycles, have greater autonomy and more flexibility than they do at present, it makes little sense to think in terms of ‘maximum change’. The school’s junior cycle programme must be consistent with the statements of learning and it must comply with the requirements surrounding qualifications, but, otherwise, the school will have the freedom to employ subjects, short courses, and other learning experiences in ways that meet the needs of students and the resources of the school across the three years of junior cycle. Having said this, the idea in introducing junior cycle change over a broad timescale is that it allows schools to take a measured and incremental approach to changing their junior cycle programme over a number of years.