Junior cycle is the period from first to third year in secondary school. During Junior cycle, the majority of pupils, including those with special educational needs, follow a course of study which leads to the Junior Certificate Examination.
A student who has been receiving special education support or resources while in Primary School is eligible for continuation of support at secondary level , once they continue to have a special educational need.
The same general provisions he/she received in primary school apply at Secondary Level. This typically includes specialist teaching from a Learning Support or Special Education Resource teacher (both now referred to as Special Education teachers).
This support is provided based on need, with the number of hours of support determined by the Individual Education Plan (IEP) drawn up in the last year of primary school. In general students in secondary school are eligible for the same supports as in primary school. This may include a Special Needs Assistant (SNA).
The NCCA has produced guidelines for teachers of pupils with general learning disabilities for use in the junior cycle of post-primary and special schools as an aid to teachers to include these pupils in their classes.
The NCCA is also developing a Curriculum Framework for a small number of junior cycle pupils with special educational needs who may not be able to take Junior Certificate examinations. You can find out more about the NCCA at www.ncca.ie.
Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP)
Some schools also offer the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) as an alternative certification option. The JCSP attempts to create conditions through which the young people concerned can have a positive experience of school and achieve success.
JCSP is a way of working within the Junior Certificate. It is specially designed to help young people who have had a difficult experience of school and may be potential early leavers. Through a system of profiling a student’s work in Junior Cycle classes, students are provided with opportunities to engage with the curriculum and to achieve success at school. They get an official certificate of their achievements, validated by the Department of Education and Science, in addition to their Junior Certificate Examination Certificate.
What are the core subjects in JCSP?
There are no core subjects as such, but all students must be entered in the Junior Certificate English and Maths Exams and they must follow a suitable course in Irish.
Do students sit the Junior Cert Exams?
Yes. The whole point of taking JCSP is to stay at school, experience success in education and become more confident about sitting the Junior Certificate Exam.
Do many students fail JCSP?
Students cannot fail JCSP. The Programme is about success. Achievable statements are carefully chosen. Students get an opportunity to complete a series of statements and build their own success profile – a profile listing all the things they can do.
Do parents have a role in JCSP?
Yes. Parental involvement in JCSP is both encouraged and welcomed. Parents are invited to become actively involved in their children’s education by working with the school in encouraging good attendance, punctuality and homework and by praising progress made. Schools typically increase the frequency of contact with parents with emphasis on passing on ‘good news’. Many schools hold parent days to exhibit work done, award certificates of achievement and celebrate with parents on their children’s successes.
SUPPORTS AVAILABLE AT JUNIOR CYCLE LEVEL
Reasonable accommodation in the State Certificate Examinations
Secondary school students with special needs may have special arrangements made for them while sitting State examinations such as the Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate. Candidates with disabilities (for example, visual impairments, motor and mobility impairments, etc.) can apply through their school for reasonable accommodation during examinations.
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) operates the Reasonable Accommodation in Certificate Examinations (RACE) scheme.
Under the RACE scheme, pupils with permanent or long-term conditions*, which will significantly impair their performance in state exams, may apply to the SEC for reasonable accommodation(s) to be made to facilitate them taking the examinations. These accommodations include:
- Exemption from certain parts of the exam
- Arrangements to have question papers read to the student
- Braille translation of question papers
- Permission to record answers on tape recorder, typewriter or word-processor
- Dictation of answers to a person acting as a scribe rather than to a tape recorder
- Ten minutes extra time.
*Permanent or long-term conditions include: visual or hearing difficulties and specific learning difficulties, that they believe will specifically impair their performance in examinations may apply to the State Exams Commission for a reasonable accommodation to be made to facilitate them in taking the examination. The school can assist with the application of this accommodation.
Reasonable Accommodations at the Certificate Examinations (RACE)
The Race scheme aims to assist students who are at a disadvantage due to a disability, by facilitating access to the state certificate examinations. The scheme has been the subject of much discussion and controversy in recent months and is currently undergoing changes.
Details of the revised 2017 scheme of reasonable accommodations will be available here on the State Examinations Commission website soon.
These are allocated on behalf of individual students with special educational needs in accordance with each student's assessed special educational needs. The core task of the Resource teacher is the teaching of students with SEN, whether this is done one-to-one, in small groups, in special classes or through co-operative teaching with colleagues. Hours are allocated to the school in keeping with the regulations and guidelines provided by the NCSE (National Council for Special Education) and the Department of Education and Science.
The role of the learning support teacher is to provide additional teaching support to students with low achievement in literacy or mathematics or to those with mild or transient difficulties in such areas as language and motor coordination. Learning support teacher posts are allocated to secondary schools in accordance with the number of students enrolled.
Special Needs Assistants (SNAs)
SNAs are allocated to post-primary schools to provide care and assistance to named students who have special educational needs. Special needs assistant posts are allocated following application to the SENO, in accordance with circular ppt 01/05 and SNA 12/05. Special needs assistants are recruited specifically to assist schools in providing the necessary non-teaching services to students with assessed educational needs. The allocation of posts to the school is reviewed each year.
Exemption from the study of Irish
Provision can be made for certain students to be exempted from the study of Irish in limited circumstances. Students in certain categories of disability are eligible for exemption. Details of this scheme are available in the DES Circular 12/96 which is available here.
An exemption from the study of Irish means that a student attending a primary or post-primary school is not required to study Irish. Irish is a compulsory subject in schools recognised by the Department however there are certain limited circumstances whereby an exemption may be granted. The authority to grant an exemption has been delegated to school management.
How do I apply for an exemption from the study of Irish?
Parents/Guardians should apply in writing on behalf of their child stating the grounds on which an exemption is being sought to the school principal. A child will only be considered for an exemption where his/her educational circumstances come within the provisions in departmental circulars 12/96 (primary) or M10/94 (post-primary).
Extract from M10/94:
- who function intellectually at average or above average level but have a Specific Learning Disability of such a degree of severity that they fail to achieve expected levels of attainment in basic language skills in the mother tongue, or
- who have been assessed as having a general learning disability due to serious intellectual impairment [i.e. mental handicap] and are also failing to attain adequate levels in basic language skills in the mother tongue.
- who have been assessed as having a general learning disability due to serious sensory impairment, and are also failing to attain adequate levels in basic language skills in the mother tongue.
The evidence of such a disability should be furnished by a qualified psychologist, supported in the case of (iii) by a report from an appropriate medical specialist. In addition, a full report on the pupil should be furnished by the school.
Further information is available here.