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special status

Minister wants History to be 'mandatory' for Junior Cycle

Maths, Irish and English are currently the only compulsory subjects, bar some exceptions.

EDUCATION MINISTER JOE McHugh has requested that History be given “special core status” in the Junior Cycle school curriculum.

The proposal would make it mandatory for students to study History up to third year in secondary school.

Maths, Irish and English are currently the only ‘mandatory’ subjects of the 21 on offer at Junior Cycle level, bar some exceptions to pupils studying certain subjects.

McHugh said he made the decision after “giving full consideration” to a review of the optional status of History which was carried out by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).

Last November the NCCA was asked to carry out the review and filed a report to the minister in July. McHugh said the report was “comprehensive and put forward a strong case”.

“I have given it full consideration over the last two months, as well as taking on board the views of many people I meet on a daily basis who dedicate their lives and careers to education and to nurturing the minds of young people.

“My view is that our education system is responsive and progressive enough to allow for the Junior Cycle Framework to be structured in such a way for history to have a special core status,” McHugh said. 

He has asked the NCCA to now examine how such a move could be implemented. 

Drop in numbers 

There has been much debate about the status of History in schools in the last year, with many people arguing it such be a compulsory subject. 

A new specification for History was introduced to schools in September 2018, as part of the rollout of the Junior Cycle Framework. 

Prior to the introduction of the new framework, History was a mandatory subject in approximately half of post-primary schools, although around nine out of 10 students across post-primary took the History exam at Junior Cycle level.

McHugh said the optional nature of History was “due to be reviewed two years from now” but he was “not prepared to risk a fall in the number of students studying history in that time”.

The minister has already requested the development of a Young Historians’ Competition and is seeking support from education partners to establish it along with a range of other initiatives to promote History at primary and post-primary level.

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