New style Junior Cert assessment next spring
Students will undertake the first of the new style Junior Cert exams next spring - if teachers accept the latest reform proposals.
Second-year pupils will do an assessment in English - such as delivering an oral presentation to their classmates and teacher - most likely in March or April.
Among the wide variety of options that will be open to students will be talking about a person of interest, such as a sporting figure, a pastime or an organisation in which they are involved.
It will be the first of two classroom-based assessments in English, with the second taking place in third year.
A key focus will be to judge the strength of the pupils' communication skills.
The classroom assessments are being introduced as a way of reducing reliance on the traditional State exams.
Students will continue to do exams in June at the end of third year, although they will be for a maximum of two hours, shorter than many exams under current arrangements.
English is the first syllabus to undergo an overhaul, and changes in how other subjects are taught and assessed will be phased in over a number of years.
Next September will see the roll-out of a bigger body of reforms, including new teaching and assessment practices in science and business studies
There will also be reduction in the number of subjects a student will take - down from a typical 12 currently to between eight and 10, although there is provision also for "short courses", in new subjects such as Chinese and computer coding.
As teacher unions announced ballots of their members on the proposals for change, Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan has published the framework setting out details of what students,parents and teachers can expect.
Ms O'Sullivan promised that students would be "at the centre of the learning process and will engage with a modernised curriculum across all subjects.
"They will experience new ways of learning and a broader range of skills, while innovative classroom-based assessment will support that learning".
The minister said that teachers would have the necessary professional time and resources to implement the new Junior Cycle successfully. This year, English teachers will get 10 hours of extra training
Teacher unions have resisted the changes for years - mainly because they didn't want to take on any responsibility for the classroom-based assessment of their own students. However, they have agreed to ballot members, starting next week, on a deal that went a long way to meeting their demands.
While the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) is urging its members to accept, the Association of Secondary teachers Ireland (ASTI) is making no recommendation and leaving it to members to decide.