Belfast Telegraph

History to be given special core status following review

Reforms introduced last year by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment made history optional for students.

Education Minister Joe McHugh has requested that history be given a special core status (Niall Carson/PA)
Education Minister Joe McHugh has requested that history be given a special core status (Niall Carson/PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

History will not be made a compulsory subject for the Junior Cycle following a lengthy review, it has been confirmed.

Education Minister Joe McHugh has requested that history be given a special core status.

Reforms introduced last year by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) made history optional, sparking criticism from across the education sector.

The changes, which meant that schools were no longer obliged to offer it as a core subject, also drew concern from President Michael D Higgins and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.

Mr McHugh ordered a review of the decision last November.

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 Joe McHugh

In its report, the NCCA recommended that history should remain optional pending the findings of a review of the new Junior Cycle course and framework.

In its review, which was completed earlier this year, the NCCA stated that it acknowledged the “strength of feeling and argument” among those who advocate that history should be a compulsory subject for all students.

It also said that it comes at a time of “uncertainty, insecurity and change in culture, society and politics nationally”.

New figures show that the number of post-primary students studying history from this September dropped to 88%, compared with 90% before the changes were introduced.

Mr McHugh said he took the decision after giving “full consideration” of the review.

The minister is to request the support of the NCCA in devising a new structure for the Junior Cycle Framework which includes history as a special core status.

As well as requesting the development of a Young Historians’ Competition, Mr McHugh 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.

He said: “I am hugely grateful to the NCCA Council and all its members for the work they have done to review the place of history in the Junior Cycle. 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.

“I am seeking the support of the NCCA to examine how best that can be achieved and their expertise to design a special core status for history within the new Junior Cycle to meet the request.”

Prior to the introduction of the reforms, 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 examination at Junior Cycle.

Currently, maths, English, Irish and wellbeing are the only mandatory subjects, with the other 18 being optional.

Mr McHugh added: “The optional nature of history in the Junior Cycle Framework was due to be reviewed two years from now but I am not prepared to risk a fall in the number of students studying history in that time.

“The Junior Cycle Framework focuses on core learning as opposed to core subjects.

“It is my view, after long consideration, that history is central to that.”

PA

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