Monday 19 August 2019

Education Minister says decision on future of Junior Cert history to be made in June

Joe McHugh believes history should have a special place
Joe McHugh believes history should have a special place
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Education Minister Joe McHugh will have to wait another month for official advice on the future status of history in the junior cycle curriculum.

But as the curriculum advisory body continues its deliberations, the minister is unyielding in his view that history should be awarded special status on the junior cycle curriculum.

There was speculation that the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA)  would report back to Mr McHugh on his request for a review  of the optional nature of the subject, after its meeting today.

But, during an address to an education conference,  Mr McHugh said he had been told that no decision had been made, but that it would be made at the next NCCA meeting in June.

He said he would give the NCCA “the time and place to continue its deliberations, but stressed : “My own personal  opinion remains steadfast  - that I feel there is a unique role for history”, he told reporters on the fringes of the Joint Managerial Body (JJMB) conference in Killarney, Co Kerry.

The JMB represents managers in the voluntary secondary school sector, generally schools traditionally run by the religious.

The minister said the topic had “grabbed public attention”, not only in Ireland, but that he was getting communications on it form around friends and colleagues in the US.

“One thing, as someone who has been in politics for 20 years,  you develop an ear for the ground and I have never come across an issue like this, that remains so consistent on daily basis”, he said.

Mr McHugh’s request to the NCCA presented the advisory body with a conundrum, because it devised the new junior cycle framework, where only thee subjects are compulsory – Irish, English and math. To accede to Mr McHugh’s request would mean overturning  their own previous advice.

The new framework gives schools  flexibility around  subject choice, including the option to introduce  two or four short courses in new subjects such as coding or Chinese, to replace one or two mainstream subjects.

The new framework has led to concerns that some schools will ditch history, although not everyone subscribes to that view.

The minister said he was “never a person for compulsion in any aspect of life, but we do have core subjects and I believe we have to find a way to  emphasise the value of history”.

Asked would he accept the NCCA advice, he replied he had “never been in this position before. I  will certainly read their analysis as to why they have arrived at a certain conclusion.”

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