Saturday 17 March 2018

New Junior Cert English results show more pupils with good grades

(stock image)
(stock image)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The junior cycle reforms got off to a good start for pupils, with a higher number than usual scoring more than 55pc in the new-style English written assessment at both higher and ordinary level.

However, the numbers overall achieving the highest grades across all subjects is down on last year.

More than 61,500 students getting the results of the June exams today are the first to experience changes in the junior cycle experience.

English is the first subject to have undergone a reform in teaching, learning, assessment and grading. Similar changes in other subjects will be phased in over coming years.

Education Minister Richard Bruton led the congratulations to students, their parents and teachers, adding that it was "positive and encouraging to see the changes to the junior cycle coming to fruition".

The employers' body Ibec said it could be "the start of the single most radical educational change in decades" and called for similar changes in the Leaving Cert.

Among those celebrating today were four students who achieved 12 top grades, whether traditional As, or the new 'Distinction' for a mark of between 90-100pc in the new-style English assessment.

Results are available in schools today and online at, from 4pm. The overall numbers sitting the exam increased by 2.3pc on last year, an indication of the continuing surge in pupil numbers at second-level.

However, the number of pupils getting at least one A grade or distinction across all subjects is down to 21,833, compared with 22,608 in 2016.

This year also sees the replacement of the Junior Cert with the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA), which will record the results of the June exams as well as other student achievements, such as sporting or debating activities, recorded in school.

In the case of English, the result students get today incorporates the outcome of the June exam - reduced to two hours as part of the changes. It also includes a written task, overseen by teachers in schools, but marked by the State Examinations Commission.

A comparison of the results in English between 2017 and 2016 shows that at both levels, the proportion achieving 55pc or more in the subject was 81-83pc, compared with about 76-77pc last year.

However, the boundaries between grades have changed, so it is not possible to make direct comparisons within tighter bands.

This year also saw an increase in the number of students taking the higher-level English option, described as "encouraging" by Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) president Joanne Irwin. She said the TUI would continue to analyse English and other subject areas to see if any adjustments may be needed in the future.

The JCPA will also record, under a separate heading, a student's achievement in classroom-based assessments such as, in the case of English, an oral presentation which was graded by teachers.

However because of the lengthy campaign of opposition to the junior cycle changes by the Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI), its members refused to co-operate with such assessments.

As a result, when they receive their JCPA later this term, some students may have blank spaces in those boxes. The ASTI opposition to the junior cycle changes ended in June.

The changes to junior cycle will be phased in until 2020. Last year, first years were introduced to the new formats in science and business, and, this month, Irish, modern foreign languages and visual art, were rolled out in schools. The new area of learning, called wellbeing, was introduced this month.

Ibec welcomed the publication of results under the new junior cycle as "an important landmark in education reform".

Ibec head of education and social policy Tony Donohoe said the "economy and our prosperity are intrinsically linked to the strength of our education system and, in reforming the junior years of second-level education, we will deliver better outcomes for our students and help underpin our long-term prosperity".

He said the new curriculum gave teachers space to be innovative and provide a more rounded education experience - and should also equip students with skills and appetite for continuous learning.

He added: "This reform could mark the start of the single most radical educational change in decades. Moving away from the dominance of rote learning and written exams will help develop critical thinking skills, that are required in the modern workplace, from an early age."

Irish Independent

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